Arizona is a large state and home to a rich topographic and biological variety of habitats, from high-elevation alpine tundra to low-lying and arid desert environments. This range in habitats contributes to Arizona’s rank as the third most biodiverse state in the nation, home to more than 500 bird species, 72 fish species, 25 amphibians, 164 mammals, and more than 100 species of reptiles (Stein 2002). The state covers nearly 73 million acres, with elevations from 75 feet above sea level (near Yuma) to mountain peaks higher than 12,000 feet (near Flagstaff). In between are sprawling urban areas, rural working lands, rolling grasslands, fragile rivers and lakes, and so much more. Each of these habitats plays an important role in supporting the many species of wildlife from a variety of taxonomic groups, while also providing critical ecosystem services to humans, such as clean air and water, as well as recreational opportunities like hunting and fishing, hiking and birdwatching. Likewise, each of these habitats present its own unique challenges and opportunities to protect the resources for Arizona’s wildlife.
Similar to the last two iterations of the SWAP, the AWCS relies on a slightly modified version of the Brown and Lowe (1980, 1994) biotic communities classification system to define the 17 major habitat types that are profiled in this chapter. Each of the habitat types profiled falls into four distinct habitat systems in Arizona: desertscrub, grassland, forest/woodland, and aquatic/riparian. This chapter contains overviews for each of the system types, complete with general descriptions, overall history of the system in Arizona, and current conservation efforts. These are followed by individual habitat profiles which benefited from extensive input from stakeholders and internal AZGFD review by habitat and species experts. These habitat profiles are at the heart of the AWCS as they provide potential conservation actions to reduce or eliminate threats to each habitat type and their associated wildlife species. Each of the habitat profiles included in this chapter contains detailed habitat descriptions, SGCN wildlife and sensitive plant species that occur there, primary threats facing the habitat type, a list of conservation opportunity areas, climate change conservation strategies, and much more.