There’s more to conserving the Sonoran Desert than grooming trails. It starts with preserving the thousands of plants that thrive there. That’s where the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy is taking a leadership role—again. The Conservancy will lead a group of experts in assessing nearly 4,000 Sonoran Desert plant species as part of the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. Find out how this project will help conserve the desert for generations of visitors to come.

Our Parsons Connection

This team of experts will be co-led by Helen Rowe, director of our Parsons Field Institute, the Conservancy’s research arm. The Institute establishes best practices for long-term management of natural areas like the Sonoran Desert, through research and regional conservation projects.

Rowe and her co-chair from the National Autonomous University of Mexico will chair the Sonoran Desert Plant Species Specialist Group. It includes experts from across the Sonoran Desert (Sonora, Mexico), Arizona, California, and New Mexico. The group is part of the Species Survival Commission, a division of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“Our leadership in this group is a tremendous acknowledgment of the role the Conservancy can play in preserving natural spaces,” said Rowe.

Sounding Code Red

The expert team is charged with assessing the conservation status of Sonoran Desert plants on the IUCN’s Red List of Threated Species. First, students and volunteers will collate data on desert species from the list. Then Rowe and her team will meet to review the information and assess the extinction status using a defined criteria. Their findings will become an important part of the IUCN list.

The Red List does more than catalog species and their status. It’s also become a valuable tool in the global effort to conserve threatened plants and animals. Government and conservation agencies, businesses, educational organizations and others use the list to direct biodiversity conservation efforts and make policy changes. Take a look at this video to learn more about its impact.

Turning Data Into Action

Data is just the start of what the Species Specialist Group will do. They also take action to conserve and protect Sonoran Desert plants.

Once a species is put on the Red List, a conservation plan is drafted. The group will review past plans for Sonoran Desert plants to evaluate progress. That will give the panel a better understanding of what conservation efforts are most effective. What they learn will benefit not only Sonoran plants but can also be applied to conserving other species too.

Overall, the information generated by the IUCN Red List’s assessments and review of conservation plans will lead to targeted conservation planning, education, and action across the Sonoran Desert.

In addition, the Conservancy has plans to address threats already identified. We are a leader in providing training and data support to parks around the region aimed at identifying and removing invasive species.

Learn More

Check out the Parsons Field Institute’s Resource webpage. You’ll find publications, maps and presentations on its many projects. That includes the non-native grass mapping and removal in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.