Arizona Wildlife Conservation Strategy

Lentic Systems

Lentic systems include natural lakes or ponds, small man-made lakes, isolated or connected backwaters of rivers, large reservoirs, and their associated riparian habitats. Arizona has about 492 square miles covered with water, mostly in man-made reservoirs (Tellman et al. 1997). Most of the natural ponds in Arizona are not perennial, and even the two natural lakes (Mormon Lake and Stoneman Lake) can dry up during extended droughts (Hereford and Amoroso 2021). Following the settlement of the Arizona Territory and, later, the State of Arizona, the need to manage water resources for safety and human uses increased. In response to these changes, more than 400 dams were constructed around the state (USGS 2017). The larger reservoirs were created in the early to mid-20th century, beginning with construction of Roosevelt Dam in 1911 (Blanchard 1911). Damming of rivers immediately altered downstream flows and habitat in the streams/river systems in which they were built, thus affecting native aquatic wildlife (Garcia 2009). Humans also introduced non-native fish, crayfish, and mollusks to many of these reservoirs, which negatively-affected native aquatic species in these lentic systems as well as the connected lotic systems (Johnson et al. 2008).

Hundreds of smaller human-created impoundments, including stock tanks, local community/ranch ponds, and small lakes are dispersed throughout Arizona and provide habitat for aquatic and terrestrial wildlife (USGS 2017). Most of these small impoundments have limited or no riparian areas, nor do they support populations of native fishes. Fish that do occur in these smaller lentic systems are typically non-native species (Olden and Poff 2005). These ponds provide locally-important sources of drinking water for many wildlife species, and maybe the only sources of standing water over significant areas.

Significant Habitat Features

The following describes habitat features or microhabitats that are unique to this habitat type and are of particular importance to certain species:

  • Ponds and tanks smaller than two surface acres and shallower than 10 feet are often temporary and may only provide water for less than a year at a time. However, the temporal availability of these ponded habitats is very important for the reproduction and recruitment of amphibian and invertebrate species. Thanks to the ephemeral nature of these lentic systems, they preclude the occupation of non-native fishes that may prey upon or compete with native species. Many species of game and nongame wildlife will also use these temporary water sources as a drinking water source.

  • Moderate-sized ponds may persist for one or more years, except during the longest drought periods. These lentic systems provide more reliable drinking water sources for game and nongame wildlife. However, these ponds may require active management to maintain a desirable aquatic species assemblage and native habitat that reflects AZGFD’s management goals for the area, whether they be a sportfishing opportunity or for native species conservation.

  • Larger reservoirs have converted many miles of flowing river to standing water habitats that can be used by a variety of waterfowl and piscivorous birds such as bald eagle and osprey. These larger lentic systems also provide suitable habitat for the fish species that support the majority of recreational sport fishing opportunities in the state.

Strategy Species

The following list represents SGCN in this habitat type that AZGFD actively manages or are watching closely due to some level of concern:


Chiricahua Leopard Frog, Lowland Leopard Frog, Northern Leopard Frog, Sonoran Tiger Salamander


American Bittern, Bald Eagle, California Black Rail, Clark's Grebe, Common Gallinule, Western Least Bittern, American Peregrine Falcon, Sora, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Virginia Rail, Western Grebe, Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Ridgway's Rail


Apache Trout, Bonytail Chub, Desert Pupfish, Gila Chub, Gila Topminnow, Gila Trout, Sonoyta Pupfish, Razorback Sucker, Roundtail Chub, Yaqui Catfish, Yaqui Chub, Yaqui Topminnow


California Floater


Allen's Lappet-browed Bat, Greater Western Mastiff Bat, Mexican Free-tailed Bat, Pocketed Free-tailed Bat, Spotted Bat, Western Red Bat


Mexican Gartersnake, Sonora Mud Turtle, Sonoyta Mud Turtle

Sensitive Plant Species

The following list represents plant species that are known to occur in this habitat type:

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.


American Bullfrog, Arizona Tiger Salamander, Western Chorus Frog


American Coot, Common Yellowthroat, Merriam's Turkey, Osprey, Song Sparrow


Black Bullhead, Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Channel Catfish, Common Carp, Cutthroat Trout, Flathead Catfish, Green Sunfish, Largemouth Bass, Rainbow Trout, Striped Bass, Western Mosquitofish, Yellow Bullhead


Applesnail, Asiatic Clam, New Zealand Mudsnail, Virile or Northern Crayfish, Quagga Mussel, Red Swamp Crawfish


American Beaver, American Pronghorn, Desert Bighorn Sheep, Mexican Gray Wolf, Mule Deer, Southeastern River Otter, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, Rocky Mountain Elk, Whitetail Deer, Yuma Myotis


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.

1. Agriculture

1.1: Annual and perennial nontimber crops
1.3: Livestock farming and ranching
Livestock farming and ranching practices can adversely affect lentic systems through loss of plant cover, erosion, and dewatering. Livestock also alter water quality in lentic systems through excrement and trampling which mixes sediments into the water.

3. Climate Change and Severe Weather

3.1: Habitat shifting and alteration
3.2: Droughts
Climate change is leading to warmer water temperatures which may exceed species’ temperature tolerances, causing local extinctions. Climate change can also increase drought frequency and severity which can lead to reduction or complete habitats.

5. Disease, Pathogens, and Parasites

5: Disease, Pathogens, and Parasites
In closed lentic systems, harmful diseases, pathogens, or parasites can spread throughout these populations causing declines or even local extinctions. Introduction of these harmful organisms can also slow or end species reintroduction efforts.

7. Human Intrusions and Disturbance

7.1: Recreational activities
Recreational activities, such as illegal OHV use, can degrade lentic habitats through altering habitats or destroying submersed and emergent vegetation. Also OHV use on shores and in upland areas can cause erosion which leads to more sedimentation in lentic systems.

8. Invasive and Other Problematic Species

8.1: Invasive non-native species
Invasive and problematic species such as non-native fish, amphibians (bullfrogs), and crustaceans (crayfish), can compete with or prey upon native fauna. Invasive aquatic plants can outcompete native plants, and cover lentic habitats, resulting in increased shading and alteration of nutrient inputs.

9. Natural System Modifications

9.1: Fire and fire suppression
Wildfire can result in silt, sediment, and ash inputs to lentic systems, leading to reduction in habitat and water quality. Wildfires can also directly burn riparian and aquatic vegetation, and alter the aquatic ecosystem by decreasing aquatic species abundances.

Conservation Actions

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.

1. Land and Water Protection

1.1: Site/area protection
  • Acquire land and water rights and pursue conservation agreements and easements in and around COAs and other priority areas. (Threats 1.3, 3.1)

2. Land and Water Management

2.2: Invasive/problematic species control
2.3: Habitat and natural process restoration
  • Remove non-native, undesirable, and/or invasive wildlife and plant species. Monitor the effectiveness and maintenance for the success of removal efforts. (Threat 8.1)
  • Improve, restore, or maintain high-quality aquatic habitat to support SCGN aquatic species. Develop and maintain refuge habitats. (Threats 1.3, 3.1)
  • Improve, restore, or maintain high-quality riparian habitat to support pollinator species. (Threats 1.1, 1.3, 3.1, 8.1, 9.1)

3. Species Management

3.2: Species recovery
3.3: Species reintroduction
3.4: Ex situ conservation
  • Develop and implement projects for repatriation of aquatic wildlife species populations that are currently unsustainable or extirpated, or to improve genetic resilience throughout their historical range, including refugia populations. (Threats 1.1, 1.3, 3.1, 3.2, 5, 7.1, 8.1, 9.1)
  • Establish and maintain hatchery or other captive populations and provide progeny to meet conservation needs. (Threats 1.3, 3.1, 5, 7.1, 8.1, 9.1)
  • Rescue (salvage) native aquatic wildlife at risk from imminent threats, and return salvaged wildlife when appropriate. (Threats 3.1, 3.2, 5, 8.1)

4. Education and Awareness

4.3: Awareness and communication
  • Make presentations at professional meetings and public events to increase awareness of effects of threats to aquatic wildlife species and habitats with an emphasis on how the threats can be reduced. (Threats 1.3, 3.1, 5, 7.1, 8.1, 9.1)
  • Expand wildlife viewing programs to improve associated infrastructure (signs, platforms, etc.) and to reach larger and more diverse audiences. (Threats 4.3, 7.1)

6. Livelihood, Economic and Other Incentives

6.4: Conservation payments and programs
  • Engage landowners and partners to participate in Safe Harbor Agreements, Habitat Conservation Plans, Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCA), and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAA). (Threats 1.1, 1.3, 3.1)

7. External Capacity Building

7.2: Alliance and partnership development
  • Collaborate with various partners (e.g., statewide, regional, national, and international) to develop and implement management plans, conservation agreements, recovery actions, research, management recommendations, and to determine the effectiveness of specific management efforts. (Threats 1.3, 3.1)

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).

  • Establish new wild and/or captive populations of climate vulnerable SGCN.

  • Conserve a variety of habitats that support healthy populations of fish and wildlife as climate changes.

  • Conduct research targeting species and habitat types likely to be vulnerable to climate change impacts.

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.
  • Implement conservation actions to promote populations of SGCN species.
  • Identify suitable habitat and assess the quality of lentic habitat for potential reintroduction or release.
  • Collect specimens or samples for taxonomic analysis, genetics, research, and/or disease testing.
  • Investigate the use of novel husbandry techniques, new technology, and/or life history research on native aquatic wildlife to improve survival, growth, production, health, condition, transportation, release and post-release performance of captive progeny into the wild.
  • Fund or work with partners to conduct conservation-related aquatic species research.
  • Manage recreational activities within lentic systems to minimize negative impacts to habitat and associated species.

Conservation Opportunity Areas (COAs)

The following list are terrestrial COAs where conservation efforts would benefit wildlife and their habitats. For specific aquatic COAs, refer to the COA map.

Potential Partnerships

The following is a list of the organizations and agencies that AZGFD regularly partners with on conservation efforts in this habitat type:

Important Conservation Resources

The following are relevant conservation agreements, plans, and other documents or particular interest regarding wildlife in this habitat type: