January 11, 2011

The Fate of a Fallen Saguaro...One Year Later!

Some of you who have been following the blog for the past year may remember the major El Nino-induced winter storm that rolled through Arizona last January 2010. It dumped over 2" of rain in a few hours, caused all of Northern Arizona to shut down under several feet of snow, and even triggered tornado warnings.


We evacuated our trailer that night for a hotel room to ride it out. If you want to read more about that storm, I have attached the links to those posts below.




Torrential downpour from the hotel room window

Well, being back at Usery Mountain Recreation Area one year later, Hilina and I decided to trek out and see what a fallen saguaro looks like after one year on the desert floor. Below you can see some "before and after" images.

The day after the saguaro fell, notice the branch that fell on top?

Here you can see that branch on top for comparison

This fallen saguaro which may have been over 100 years old, provided food and moisture for numerous creatures in the year after it fell. Various animals such as deer, mice, ringtails, and woodpeckers may have munched on its water-filled pith for moisture and nutrients.

Here the saguaro is still full of water and green

Here you can see the effects of drying out all year, as well as, animals feeding on the skin

Even now, it remains important to the ecology of the desert, since it provides innumerable homes for creatures as diverse as scorpions, centipedes, ants, beetles, squirrels, quail, maybe even kit foxes or coyotes. It is a convenient place to dig a den or burrow. The remains of this cactus shades the desert floor from the intense summer sun and captures water that falls as rain or condenses as dew, keeping the soil underneath moist and providing moisture for so many animals to drink.

Inside you can see the soft, pithy materials that holds water

The same material now is hard and dry

This saguaro will eventually decay into the soil, providing important nutrients for plants that later grow on this spot. But, until then, it will continue to serve as a sanctuary for hundreds of species who need shade, moisture, cover, or food sources that sustain the ecology of this harsh land.

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