Sabino Canyon supports a wide variety of Sonoran Desert wildlife because it is a botanically diverse natural landscape that provides the food and shelter native wildlife needs to successfully reproduce and thrive. Conservation of this healthy habitat means controlling invasive plants that have not evolved in the region and that crowd out native plants. Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists promote conservation through public interpretation and education about invasive species and we also help identify and remove them. The three most troublesome invasive species in Sabino Canyon are Giant Reed (Arundo donax), Buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) and Green Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum). Weed it and Reap describes this dynamic relationship of invasive versus native plants in Sabino Canyon.
The Arundo (Giant Reed) Project
Sonoran Desert plants have returned in great profusion to Sabino Creek in places that were once overrun by 25-ft. high thickets of the invasive Giant Reed. From 2008-2010 hundreds of people volunteered for the difficult work of removing the non-native cane. Here's a 7-minute video update on Sabino's recovery.
Three excellent videos about the Arundo Removal Project in Sabino Canyon
Click here to watch a video of the removal process.
New Buffelgrass Studies: Catalinas, Including Sabino, at Risk
In Oct. 2012 two new scientific studies on Santa Catalina Mountains Buffelgrass were published. One study documents the transformation of rich, diverse Sonoran Desert upland habitat of 15-20 plant species into a "depauperate," or impoverished, landscape containing only 2-5 species after Buffelgrass invades. The longer Buffelgrass remains on a site, the more species richness and deversity decline. [For the full study, click here] The second study documents the rate at which Catalina Buffelgrass is spreading: It doubles in acreage every 2.26-7.04 years. [For the full study, click here]
Combining findings of the two studies: Those Sabino Canyon Recreation Area hillside sections overrun with invasive Buffelgrass will double again in size within approximately five years, much sooner on south facing slopes.
Telltale: the Buffelgrass rachis, or central stem of the seed head, is coarse and abrasive. Photos by Tom Skinner.