Using Annual Plants to Track Greenhouse Gas Hotspots: A CAZCA and SW-IFL Project

Using Annual Plants to Track Greenhouse Gas Hotspots: A CAZCA and SW-IFL Project

Did you know annual plants to tell us where greenhouse gas hotspots are? Central Arizona Conservation Alliance (CAZCA) has partnered with the Southwest Urban Corridor Integrated Field Laboratory (SW-IFL) to collect annual plants throughout the Phoenix Metro area for research to identify these hotspots.

Greenhouse gasses, a result of fossil fuel combustion, is one of the leading contributors of climate change. When fossil fuels are burned, they release large amounts of greenhouse gasses, including carbon dioxide, methane, and more, into the air and can be absorbed by plants. 

 

Over the past few months, the CAZCA,  Sky Island Alliance, and the Northern Arizona University SW-IFL team, accompanied by a strong volunteer force, have been collecting samples of annual plants all throughout Arizona, uploading photos and identifications to iNaturalist, and sending the samples to be lab tested for carbon levels.

By collecting and observing widely distributed annual plants, we are able to identify the locations of many greenhouse gas hotspots by measuring the amount of carbon in the plants. Plants that are closer to fossil fuel sources, or greenhouse gas hotspots, will have less carbon than those further away. By using annual plants instead of perennials, scientists will be able to compare year to year changes in greenhouse gas emissions. This data, when paired with SW-IFL’s Hestia project data, could help cities and stakeholders when developing climate change action plans to target and monitor greenhouse gas sources.

Learn more about SW-IFL and their current projects below. 

The Southwest Urban Corridor Integrated Field Laboratory (SW-IFL) is just one of four such field laboratories funded by the Environmental System Science Program of the U.S. Department of Energy. For more details on the program, visit the DOE Urban IFL home page.

Sonoran Desert: From Fire Proof to Fire Prone

Sonoran Desert: From Fire Proof to Fire Prone

Have you been wondering why there has been an increased number of wildfires throughout Arizona over the past few years? Southwest Fire Science Consortium (SWFSC) has recently released a report on this recent uptick, and identifies invasive grasses as one of the leading culprits for these fires. 

Why are these plants so bad? When invasive plant species are introduced, they can overtake entire landscapes, crowding out native plants and creating a monoculture. The Sonoran Desert typically presents as a desert scrub or desert shrubland biome. The plants in these spaces can be widely spaced or patchy in their distribution with open areas in between. These open areas make it difficult for fire to spread, making the desert somewhat fireproof. As invasive plant populations grow the open spaces between plants fill in making it easier for fire to spread, shifting the naturally fireproof desert scrub to a grassland, and our naturally fireproof desert becomes more fire prone. 

These invasives contribute to what is called the grass-fire cycle. Invasive grasses can spread and establish themselves quickly; they burn very hot, carry wildfires further than they may naturally go, and recover quickly after a fire. Native Sonoran Desert plants, on the other hand, can take several years to recover after a wildfire. Over time, invasive populations result in greater likelihood for wildfires to start and increase the size of future fires, limiting the ability for native plants to reestablish themselves. As the grass/fire cycle continues, our ability to control the invasive plant populations decreases, and wildfires start to occur more frequently, outside of the typical fire season (May-June). 

Read SWFSC’s full report below to learn more about these invasive grasses, what the future of our desert looks like, and what we can do. 

Stinknet: What You Need to Know About the Latest Desert Invader

Stinknet: What You Need to Know About the Latest Desert Invader

Have you seen, or maybe smelled, this plant? Stinknet (Oncosiphon piluliferum) has been popping up all across the valley this year, and poses a lot of threats to the ecosystem and the community.

Central Arizona Conservation Alliance is excited to announce the newest addition to our website, a page dedicated to educating the community on how to identify and manage stinknet! As a collaborative, we have joined forces with many of our partners to create a “hub” for resources about stinknet including information on identification, management and mitigation, allergens, resources for land managers, and more.  

Visit our new stinknet page to learn all about this invasive species. Only YOU can stop the spread of stinknet!

Women in Science

Women in Science

CAZCA is in the process of starting a new social media series where we will feature some of the amazing women in science throughout Central Arizona. Join us as we celebrate their remarkable contributions to the field and share their inspiring stories. Discover the passionate individuals who are pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge and making a difference in our local community.

Stay tuned for our upcoming posts and get ready to be inspired!

 

If you are a woman in science or would like to nominate one, please fill out the form below!

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with the latest news and events from CAZCA, and to learn more about these amazing women!

CAZCA Speaker Series Returns

CAZCA Speaker Series Returns

Central Arizona Conservation Alliance is excited to announce the return of our highly anticipated speaker series. This year, we are thrilled to bring you a lineup of distinguished individuals who will share their expertise and knowledge on various topics.

Prepare to be inspired as our speakers delve into captivating discussions on wildlife conservation, the importance of forging partnerships with local indigenous tribes, and much more.

Join us this fall and winter for an unforgettable experience!

CAZCA

CAZCA is an initiative of Desert Botanical Garden. Any donations made to CAZCA must be made through Desert Botanical Garden. You will now be taken to their website to complete this transaction. Thank you!
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