Chaparral describes a shrub-dominated plant community. In Arizona, this habitat covers approximately 3.5 million acres (Schalau 2008) and typically occurs at elevations between 3,200 and 5,700 feet. Chaparral is characterized by dense, nearly impenetrable thicket dominated by two species of manzanita, acacia, juniper, and shrub live oak. Forbs and grasses are not abundant, mostly due to the high percentage of crown cover. However, this understory vegetation can occur in the scattered interscrub openings or after a fire event. Other conspicuous species present in chaparral include birchleaf mountain-mahogany, skunkbush sumac, silktassels, hollyleaf buckhorn, cliffrose, desert olive, Palmer oak, Arizona white oak, Emory oak, pinyon pine, juniper and desert ceanothus. Succulents such as prickly-pear cactus, agaves, and yuccas commonly grow alongside shrubs. Most wildlife species that occur in chaparral are widespread and common, and SGCN that occupy chaparral also occur in woodland or grassland habitats where chaparral meets those communities at its upper elevation limits, or in desertscrub at lower elevations. Some examples of SGCN include Arizona night lizard, Bezy’s night lizard, and black-chinned sparrow.
The area occupied by chaparral has remained largely unchanged within historic times and stands of scrub oak present 100 years ago persist today (Brown and Makings 2014). However, over the past century, chaparral habitats were subjected to various management treatments. Until 1940, chaparral was heavily grazed by goats because of their high accessibility and relatively gentle terrain (Pase and Brown 1994). Many important range grasses were eliminated from most chaparral sites and, as a result, have been confined to rocky protected areas (ACERP 1995). Other management actions included mechanical manipulation and herbicides, practices that were common in the 1950s and 1960s in an effort to increase water yield and grazing potential in chaparral.
This habitat is fire adapted and quickly regenerates after a burning event (Pase and Brown 1994). Fire suppression has caused the frequency of wildfire to be lessened over time, allowing for dead wood to accumulate and increase the fire intensity when burned. Chaparral species tend to resprout from their root crowns and are even stimulated to germinate by fires (Schalau 2008). There is typically an increase in invasive grasses that often establish post fire.
Significant Habitat Features
The following describes habitat features or microhabitats that are unique to this habitat and are of particular importance to certain species:
Springs are vital water sources in an arid environment, and often support endemic species, such as springsnail as well as amphibians. Springs can also act as foraging grounds for several bat species and important stopover and sometimes breeding habitat for birds. There are approximately 1,360 springs in chaparral habitats throughout the state.
Rock outcrops are unique habitats that lend topographic diversity to habitats that can be fairly dense and homogenous, such as chaparral. These habitats may only occupy a small percentage of the land base, but they are disproportionately important as wildlife habitat.
Lentic and lotic systems, such as streams and rivers and lakes and ponds, play an out-sized role in most of Arizona’s habitats, including chaparral. These aquatic systems are important breeding grounds for amphibians such a lowland leopard frogs and important foraging areas for many SGCN bat species. Parts of Roosevelt Lake is within this habitat.
The following list represents SGCN in this habitat type that AZGFD actively manages or are watching closely due to some level of concern:
Bald Eagle, Black-chinned Sparrow, Ferruginous Hawk, Golden Eagle, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay
Antelope Jackrabbit, Arizona Myotis, Wupatki Arizona Pocket Mouse, Banner-tailed Kangaroo Rat, California Leaf-nosed Bat, Cave Myotis, Fringed Myotis, Greater Western Mastiff Bat, Harris's Antelope Squirrel, Kit Fox, Lesser Long-nosed Bat, Mexican Free-tailed Bat, Mexican Gray Wolf, Mexican Vole, Pocketed Free-tailed Bat, Spotted Bat, Western Red Bat, Yuma Myotis
Arizona Black Rattlesnake, Arizona Night Lizard, Bezy’s Night Lizard, Gila Spotted Whiptail, Gila Monster, Regal Horned Lizard, Sonora Mud Turtle, Sonoran Coralsnake, Sonoran Desert Tortoise, Sonoran Whipsnake, Variable Sandsnake
Sensitive Plant Species
The following list represents plant species that are known to occur in this habitat type:Arizona bugbane, Tonto Basin agave, Phillips agave, Arizona agave, Arizona hedgehog cactus, Hodgson's fleabane, Bartram stonecrop, Pinaleno Mountain rubberweed, broadleaf lupine, Lemmon's lupine, seashore cactus, Verde breadroot, Lyngholm's brakefern, Catalina beardtongue, Roosevelt Dam rockdaisy, Ertter's rose, Blumer's dock, Blackrock ground daisy
Additional Influential Species
The following are other wildlife species, native and non-native, that can have particular influence in this habitat type. Influential species can affect SGCN and their habitats directly and indirectly, for example altering predator/prey interactions, overgrazing, outcompeting natives, creating microhabitats, and others.
Gambel's Quail, Bushtit, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Common Poorwill, Spotted Towhee, Gray Vireo, Wild Turkey, White-winged Dove
American Beaver, Mule Deer, Collared Peccary or Javelina, Whitetail Deer, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Lion, Abert's Squirrel, American Black Bear
Gilbert's Skink, Rosy Boa, Sonoran Lyresnake, Black-tailed Rattlesnake
The following describes the primary threats facing this habitat type, adapted from Salafsky et al. (2008). First-level threats (i.e. Agriculture, Climate Change) represent broad categories while second-level threats reflect more specific stressors to the system. For detailed information on threats to this habitat type and conservation actions being taken, see Chapter 8: Threats and Conservation Actions.
2. Biological Resource Use
3. Climate Change and Severe Weather
4. Residential and Commercial Development
6. Energy Production and Mining
7. Human Intrusions and Disturbance
8. Invasive and Other Problematic Species
9. Natural System Modifications
11. Transportation and Service Corridors
The following describes specific conservation actions that can be taken to reduce or eliminate threats to this habitat type, adapted from Salafsky et al. (2008). Level 1 conservation actions (i.e. Land and Water Protection) represent broad categories of potential actions, while the Level 2 conservation actions (i.e. Resource and habitat protection) are more specific.
2. Land and Water Management
- Implement projects focused on improving the quality of altered systems creating suitable habitat and/or habitat features for wildlife. Manage for thinning, prescribed burns to create healthy habitats that are less prone to catastrophic wildfires and resilient to drought and insect infestations. (Threats 2.3, 9.1)
- Manage unauthorized livestock, including removal and managed at appropriate levels to minimize ecological impacts where allowed. (Threat 1.3)
- Control the spread of invasive and problematic species by implementing invasive species management plans that may include herbicide, mechanical removal, and other methods. (Threats 8.1, 8.2)
- Perform maintenance as needed to all the AZGFD water catchments used by wildlife to maintain functionality. Meet with federal land ownership agencies staff annually to identify and plan future water projects. (Threats 3.1, 3.2)
- Collaborate with local land management agencies to ensure that recreational use is not negatively impacting habitats. Continue to provide signs to private property landowners to discourage trespassing. Ensure that all illegal roads are properly posted to avoid habitat degradation. (Threat 7.1)
- To improve habitat connectivity for large ungulates, identify specific areas of chaparral and juniper encroachment and implement habitat improvement projects such as prescribed burns and/or juniper thinning. (Threats 8.1, 8.2, 9.1)
Conservation in the Context of Climate Change
The following describes some of the conservation strategies that may mitigate the effects of a changing climate for this habitat type. Strategies have been adapted from guidelines by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA 2009).
Identify and improve the connectivity of natural landscapes to better link wildlife populations and allow for range shifts.
Restore and/or improve diverse habitats to support a broad range of species assemblages that account for range shifts.
Conduct research targeting species and habitat types likely to be vulnerable to climate change impacts.
Conserve a variety of habitats that support healthy populations of fish and wildlife as climate changes.
Other Conservation Actions
The following describe other routine or on-going conservation actions AZGFD regularly performs in this habitat type:
- Conduct surveys and monitor populations of SGCN as specified in work plans and job statements.
- Survey the influential species (when possible) within the chaparral habitat to minimize negative impacts to habitat and associated species.
- Fund or work with partners to conduct conservation-related research.
- Manage recreational activities and OHV use in chaparral habitats to minimize negative impacts to habitat and associated species.
- Collect specimens or samples for taxonomic analysis, genetics, research, and/or disease testing.
Conservation Opportunity Areas (COAs)
The following represents identified COAs where conservation efforts would benefit wildlife and their habitats.
- 4 FRI - Rim Country
- Central Arizona Springsnails
- Salt-Verde Ecosystem
- Telegraph and Mescal Fires
- Tortolita Mountains
- Upper Oak Creek
- Weaver Mountains
The following is a list of the organizations and agencies that AZGFD regularly partners with on conservation efforts in this habitat type:
- Arizona Mule Deer Organization
- Mule Deer Foundation
- Arizona Elk Society
- Bureau of Land Management
- Arizona Field Ornithologists
- Tonto National Forest
- Prescott National Forest
- Coconino National Forest
- Northern Arizona University
- University of Arizona
- Maricopa County
- Yavapai County
- Gila County
- Graham County
- Pinal County
- Coconino County
- Mohave County
Important Conservation Resources
The following are relevant conservation agreements, plans, and other documents or particular interest regarding wildlife in this habitat type:
- Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan
- Arizona Bighorn Sheep Management Plan
- Four-Forest Restoration Initiative
- Mexican Spotted Owl Recovery Plan
- Arizona Statewide Elk Management Plan
- Arizona Statewide Pronghorn Management Plan 2013
- Habitat Guidelines For Mule Deer
- Arizona Bat Conservation Strategic Plan
- Arizona Partners in Flight Bird Conservation Plan