Arizona Wildlife Conservation Strategy

Defining Arizona's Key Habitat Types

Protecting and restoring key habitats, associated species assemblages, and the processes that maintain a natural balance within the larger system, requires collaboration among those that own and manage the land and those responsible for managing the resources on the landscape. Collectively developing conservation goals and priority actions for each major habitat type is key to achieving meaningful outcomes for wildlife. Continued coordination is also imperative to ensure emerging issues are addressed through proactive management compared with more costly and less effective reactive measures. 

In Chapter 7: Habitat Profiles, the AWCS provides a series of detailed habitat profiles developed by AZGFD species and habitat experts. Each of these profiles benefited from extensive stakeholder review and input. The habitat profiles identify the unique characteristics of each habitat type and also address the key challenges (known as “threats”) and conservation opportunities (known as “conservation actions”) within Arizona’s four major habitat groups, including desertscrub, grassland, woodland and forest, and aquatic systems.

The terrestrial habitat types are based on the biotic communities described by Brown and Lowe (1980, 1994; Figure 1). This mid-scale classification is useful for identifying priorities and developing conservation actions that can be effectively implemented at multiple scales and across jurisdictions. Thirteen unique terrestrial habitats are described in the profiles found in Chapter 7: Habitat Profiles. Meanwhile, aquatic and riparian habitats are described in four aquatic habitat types: lotic systems (rivers and streams), lentic systems (lakes and reservoirs), wetlands (ciėnegas, ephemeral pools, and seeps), and springs.

Each habitat profile includes the following information:

  • Habitat Description along with a map that briefly describes that habitat type and main characteristics, threats, and other features

  • Significant Habitat Features describes any features or microhabitats that are particularly important to certain species within the habitat type

  • Key Conservation Species (SGCN) which describes all of the SGCN species known to occur within the habitat type

  • Additional Influential Species lists other non-SGCN that may play a critical role in the habitat system

  • Primary Threats describes the main challenges facing this habitat and associated species

  • Conservation Actions details specific conservation measures that can be taken to address each of the threats to the habitat and SGCN

  • Conservation in the Context of Climate Change focuses on specific threats to the habitat type brought on by changes to the climate

  • Conservation Opportunity Areas (COAs) lists the specific areas where recommended conservation actions can take place on the landscape 

  • Partnerships identifies potential collaborators who may have interest, or are currently working with, that particular habitat type; these identified parties may also play a key role in conservation efforts at an identified COA

  • Important Conservation Resources provides references to management and recovery plans and documents which provide specific actions and objectives related to species associated with the habitat type

While the habitat profiles identify key species whose vulnerabilities warrant active management, it may be appropriate to shift focus to different species as conditions and needs change, or to take advantage of opportunities targeting the full suite of SGCN, including those species for which information is lacking. The 3-tiered SGCN list (described in Chapter 1: Arizona’s Biodiversity) provides the flexibility to efficiently address species needs as they arise while strategically prioritizing actions where they are needed most.

Chapter 8: Threats and Conservation Actions builds on the profiles described in the previous chapter to further address two of the eight required elements, including Element 3 (Threats to species and habitats) and Element 4 (Actions to conserve species and habitats). This chapter details the specific threats facing each of the habitats profiled using the standardized lexicon and first and secondary threat categories adapted from Salafsky et al. (2008). Conservation actions utilize the same standardized lexicon to identify specific actions that can be taken to reduce or eliminate the threats to each habitat type and the associated species.