Arizona's Natural Heritage
Arizona is a place of ecological extremes. Landscapes include a host of environments ranging from Alpine tundra found on the San Francisco Peaks, with an elevation exceeding 12,000 feet and precipitation averaging 35 to 40 inches per year, to Sonoran Desertscrub, where average rainfall can be as little as 3 inches a year and the lowest elevations are just above sea level. Between these extremes exists some of the most diverse habitat in North America. These climatic conditions have given rise to some of the most interesting and unique species as well. One species of snail, for example, exists in only a few square feet of a deep canyon bottom. Other habitats, such as desertscrub, include species like the saguaro cactus that naturally occur in few other places.
The same environmental conditions that produce such an interesting array of wildlife and habitat have made Arizona very popular with humans as well. Warm winter climates in the lower elevations of the state and cool summers in the high country, along with myriad outdoor recreational opportunities, have encouraged an ever increasing number of people to call Arizona home. In response to this influx, and the associated outdoor activity, environmental managers are studying the long-term effects of increased human demands on our environmental resources.
In order to make sound management decisions, resource managers and administrators must understand and appreciate the biological ecosystems being impacted. Ecosystems are dynamic, so it is imperative that the most current information is available for making decisions. Because humans now influence all ecosystems in Arizona, we need to plan responsibly to lessen impacts caused by continued development and economic growth.
Arizona's Heritage Data Management System (HDMS), which is managed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department (link to HDMS about us), collects, synthesizes, and catalogs information concerning the distribution and occurrence of species and habitats in need of special attention. The HDMS is part of a global network of more than 80 Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers. HDMS information is available so Arizonans can make prudent decisions weighing future development, economic growth, and environmental integrity.