Arizona Wildlife Conservation Strategy

Chapter 8: Threats and Conservation Actions

From climate change to invasive species and from development to agricultural practices, Arizona’s native species and their habitats are facing unprecedented challenges today. As a comprehensive conservation strategy, the AWCS is intended to not only identify these threats, but also recommend conservation actions that can reduce or eliminate them altogether. In Chapter 3: Conservation Challenges we detailed the myriad of threats facing Arizona’s SGCN and their habitats. In this chapter we place those threats within the context of each habitat type and the associated species.

Following recommendations from AFWA (2012) the AWCS utilizes a standardized lexicon for threats and conservation actions. Threats and conservation actions described here have been modified slightly from Salafsky et al (2008). This standardized lexicon uses a hierarchical system with different levels, similar to the Linnaean System of taxonomy. Level 1 Threats (below) are broad categories, such as Agriculture (1) and Natural Systems Modifications (9), while Level 2 Threats are more narrow and detailed, including Annual and Perennial Non-timber Crops (2.1) and Fire and Fire Suppression (9.1). We made slight revisions to the standardized lexicon to tailor to the needs in Arizona. For example, we dropped Geological Events — a level 1 category in Salafsky — since it has little relevance to Arizona. Likewise, we added a new level 1 category (Disease, Pathogens, and Parasites) as it better reflects the primary threats that need to be addressed in our state. 

In the AWCS, threats and conservation actions are identified at two scales: first, threats and conservation actions are outlined in each of the habitat profiles in Chapter 7: Habitat Profiles. More focused threats and conservation actions are also outlined in each of the profiles for the terrestrial Conservation Opportunity Areas (COAs). Both sections of these sections of the AWCS can be utilized by our many conservation partners as a guide to identify threats to wildlife and their habitats as well as AZGFD's recommendations for specific conservation actions that can be taken to reduce or eliminate these threats.

Threats to Arizona’s Wildlife and Their Habitats

Threats are defined as “natural processes or human activities that may cause destruction, degradation, and/or impairment of biodiversity and/or habitats” (Salafsky et al. 2008). Unfortunately, these threats rarely occur independently, rather, they act in a cumulative manner (Paine et al. 1998). For example, agricultural practices may increase habitat fragmentation and these practices may also introduce invasive species and reduce water quality. Likewise, drought and other climatological changes may impair resources for wildlife while contributing to insect outbreaks and increasing the likelihood of wildfire. By identifying and describing the suite of primary threats facing each of Arizona’s habitat types we can approach our conservation efforts in a holistic manner by implementing conservation actions to reduce and eliminate various threats.

Chapter 7: Habitat Profiles briefly lists the various threats facing each habitat type using the standardized lexicon. This chapter gets into more detail about these threats as well as the conservation actions that can be taken to reduce or eliminate these threats to wildlife and their habitats. The table below describes the Level 1 and Level 2 threats as modified from Salafsky et al. (2008). Also included are brief descriptions of each threat.

Level 1 Threat

Level 2 Threat

1. Agriculture

Threats from farming and ranching as a result of agricultural expansion and intensification, including silviculture, mariculture, and aquaculture

1.1 Annual and perennial nontimber crops

Crops planted for food, fodder, fiber, fuel, or other uses

1.2 Wood and pulp plantations

Stands of trees planted for timber or fiber outside of natural forests, often with non-native species

1.3 Livestock farming and ranching

Domestic terrestrial animals raised in one location on farmed or nonlocal resources (farming); also domestic or semi-domesticated animals allowed to roam in the wild and supported by natural habitats (ranching)

2. Biological Resource Use

Threats from consumptive use of “wild” biological resources including deliberate and unintentional harvesting effects; also persecution or control of specific species

2.1 Unlawful collection of terrestrial animals

Killing or trapping terrestrial wild animals or animal products for commercial, recreation, subsistence, research or cultural purposes, or for control/persecution reasons; includes accidental mortality/bycatch

2.2 Unlawful collection of terrestrial plants

Harvesting plants, fungi, and other nontimber/nonanimal products for commercial, recreation, subsistence, research or cultural purposes, or for control reasons

2.3 Logging and wood harvesting

Harvesting trees and other woody vegetation for timber, fiber, or fuel

2.4 Fishing and harvesting aquatic resources

Harvesting aquatic wild animals or plants for commercial, recreation, subsistence, research, or cultural purposes, or for control/persecution reasons; includes accidental mortality/bycatch

3. Climate Change and Severe Weather

Long-term climatic changes that may be linked to global

warming and other severe climatic or weather events outside the natural range of variation could lead to habitat shifts and local extinctions of vulnerable species

3.1 Habitat shifting and alteration

Major changes in habitat composition and location

3.2 Droughts

Periods in which rainfall falls below the normal range of variation

3.3 Temperature extremes

Periods in which temperatures exceed or go below the normal range of variation

3.4 Storms and flooding

Extreme precipitation and/or wind events or major shifts in seasonality of storms

4. Residential and Commercial Development

Human settlements or other nonagricultural land uses with a substantial footprint

4.1 Housing and urban areas

Human cities, towns, and settlements including nonhousing development typically integrated with housing

4.2 Commercial and industrial areas

Factories and other commercial centers

4.3 Tourism and recreation areas

Tourism and recreation sites with a substantial footprint

5. Disease, Pathogens, and Parasites

Threats from pathogens/microbes, or genetic materials that have or are predicted to have harmful effects on biodiversity following their introduction, spread and/or increase in abundance

No Level 2 categories (NA)

6. Energy Production and Mining

Threats from production of nonbiological resources

6.1 Oil and gas drilling

Exploring for, developing, and producing petroleum and other liquid hydrocarbons

6.2 Mining and quarrying

Exploring for, developing, and producing minerals and rocks

6.3 Renewable energy

Exploring, developing, and producing renewable energy

7. Human Intrusions and Disturbance

Threats from human activities that alter, destroy and disturb habitats and species associated with nonconsumptive uses of biological resources

7.1 Recreational activities

People spending time in nature or traveling in vehicles outside of established transport corridors, usually for recreational reasons

7.2 War, civil unrest and military exercises

Actions by formal or paramilitary forces without a permanent footprint

7.3 Work and other activities

People spending time in or traveling in natural environments for reasons other than recreation or military activities

8. Invasive and Other Problematic Species

Threats from non-native and native plants, animals,

that have or are predicted to have harmful effects on biodiversity following their introduction, spread and/or increase in abundance

8.1 Invasive non-native species

Harmful plants, animals, pathogens and other microbes not originally found within the ecosystem(s) in question and directly or indirectly introduced and spread into it by human activities

8.2 Problematic native species

Harmful plants, animals, or pathogens and other microbes that are originally found within the ecosystem(s) in question, but have become “out of balance” or “released” directly or indirectly due to human activities

9. Natural System Modifications

Threats from actions that convert or degrade habitat in service of “managing” natural or seminatural systems, often to improve human welfare

9.1 Fire and fire suppression

Suppression or increase in fire frequency and/or intensity outside of its natural range of variation

9.2 Dams and water management

Changing water flow patterns from their natural range of variation either deliberately or as a result of other activities

9.3 Other ecosystem modifications

Other actions that convert or degrade habitat in service of “managing” natural systems to improve human welfare

10. Pollution

Threats from introduction of exotic and/or excess materials or energy from point and nonpoint sources

10.1 Household sewage and urban waste water

Water-borne sewage and nonpoint runoff from housing and urban areas that include nutrients, toxic chemicals and/or sediments

10.2 Industrial and military effluents

Water-borne pollutants from industrial and military sources including mining, energy production, and other resource extraction industries that include nutrients, toxic chemicals and/or sediments

10.3 Agricultural and forestry effluents

Water-borne pollutants from agricultural, silvicultural, and aquaculture systems that include nutrients, toxic chemicals and/or sediments including the effects of these pollutants on the site where they are applied

10.4 Garbage and solid waste

Rubbish and other solid materials including those that entangle wildlife

10.5 Air-borne pollutants

Atmospheric pollutants from point and nonpoint sources

10.6 Excess energy

Inputs of heat, sound, or light that disturb wildlife or ecosystems

11. Transportation and Service Corridors

Threats from long, narrow transport corridors and the vehicles that use them including associated wildlife mortality

11.1 Roads and railroads

Surface transport on roadways and dedicated tracks

11.2 Utility and service lines

Transport of energy and resources

11.3 Flight paths

Air and space transport

Conservation Actions for Arizona’s Wildlife and Their Habitats

Conservation actions are defined as “activities that can be implemented to reach conservation goals and counteract adverse effects from threats” (Salafsky et al. 2008). With a more habitat-based approach, the AWCS provides priority conservation actions with the assumption that restoration of ecosystem structure, processes, and functions would have the most benefit for the most species. The primary mechanism to restore and protect ecosystems is to reduce or eliminate threats to habitats and their associated species. Hence, the AWCS provides numerous conservation actions specifically aimed at removing or alleviating the effect of the threats.

This chapter provides specific conservation actions per habitat type in response to the threats identified. These conservation actions were developed by AZGFD staff and partners to help meet recovery goals for ESA-listed species, priority nongame species (SGCN), conservation and research needs, to maintain habitat and populations, and to reduce or remove threats. The conservation actions identified here are feasible to implement, at least at some scale on the landscape or site of interest. These do not represent actions that only AZGFD will undertake to meet conservation goals, rather, the conservation actions listed represent the best recommendations for all of our conservation partners to consider when implementing conservation efforts. The table below describes the various conservation actions to be implemented. Level 1 is a broad category of actions while level 2 is more focused and detailed.

Level 1 Conservation Action

Level 2 Conservation Action

1. Land and Water Protection

Actions to identify, establish or expand parks and other legally protected areas as well as unprotected public and private lands, and to protect resource rights

1. 1 Site/area protection

Establishing or expanding public or private parks, reserves, and other protected areas roughly equivalent to IUCN categories I-VI

1.2 Resource and habitat protection

Establishing protection or easements of some specific aspect of the resource on public or private lands outside of IUCN categories I-VI

2. Land and Water Management

Actions directed at conserving or restoring sites, habitats and the wider environment

2.1 Site/area management

Management of protected areas and other resource lands for conservation

2.2 Invasive/problematic species control

Eradicating, controlling and/or preventing invasive and/or other problematic plants, animals, and pathogens

2.3 Habitat and natural process restoration

Enhancing degraded or restoring missing habitats and ecosystem functions; dealing with pollution

3. Species Management

Actions directed at managing or restoring species, focused on the species of concern itself

3.1 Management of specific species of concern

Managing specific plant and animal populations of concern

3.2 Species recovery

Manipulating, enhancing or restoring specific plant and animal populations, vaccination programs

3.3 Species reintroduction

Reintroducing species to places where they formally occurred or benign introductions

3.4 Ex situ conservation

Protecting biodiversity out of its native habitats

4. Education and Awareness

Actions directed at people to improve understanding and skills, and influence behavior

4.1 Formal education

Enhancing knowledge and skills of students in a formal degree program

4.2 Training

Enhancing knowledge, skills and information exchange for practitioners, stakeholders, and other relevant individuals in structured settings outside of degree programs

4.3 Awareness and communication

Raising environmental awareness and providing information through various media

5. Law and Policy

Actions to develop, change, influence, and help implement formal legislation, regulations, and voluntary standards

5.1 Legislation

Making, implementing, changing, influencing, or providing input into formal government sector legislation or policies at all levels: international, national, state/provincial, local, tribal

5.2 Policies and regulations

Making, implementing, changing, influencing, or providing input into policies and regulations affecting the implementation of laws at all levels: international, national, state/provincial, local/community, tribal

5.3 Private sector standards and codes

Setting, implementing, changing, influencing, or providing input into voluntary standards and professional codes that govern private sector practice

5.4 Compliance and enforcement

Monitoring and enforcing compliance with laws, policies and regulations, and standards and codes at all levels

6. Livelihood, Economic and Other Incentives

Actions to use economic and other incentives to influence behavior

6.1 Linked enterprises and livelihood alternatives (i.e. ecotourism)

Developing enterprises that directly depend on the maintenance of natural resources or provide substitute livelihoods as a means of changing behaviors and attitudes

6.2 Substitution with environmentally-friendly goods and services

Promoting alternative products and services that substitute for environmentally damaging ones

6.3 Market forces

Using market mechanisms to change behaviors and attitudes

6.4 Conservation payments and programs

Using direct or indirect payments to change behaviors and attitudes

6.5 Non-monetary values

Using intangible values to change behaviors and attitudes

7. External Capacity Building

Actions to build the infrastructure to do better conservation

7.1 Institutional and civil society development (i.e. land trusts)

Creating or providing non-financial support and capacity building for nonprofits, government agencies, communities, and for-profits

7.2 Alliance and partnership development

Forming and facilitating partnerships, alliances, and networks of organizations

7.3 Conservation finance (i.e. raising funds)

Raising and providing funds for conservation work