Sonoran and Mohave Deserts / Sierra Madre Occidental

Ducks Unlimited conservation priority area, wintering habitat for half the Pacific Flyway ruddy duck population

The most important aquatic habitat in this extremely arid region is the lower Colorado River corridor. Wetlands of the Imperial and Coachella valleys are now dominated by the Salton Sea. A diversion faltered in 1905, causing the Colorado River to flow into the Cahuilla Basin, forming the Salton Sea.

Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area is a significant wetland in the arid Sulphur Springs Valley in Southeastern Arizona. Mystic Lake is the outlet area of the San Jacinto River in California. Once a major ephemeral wetland, the lake was described by Anza in 1774 as "several leagues in circumference and as full of white geese as water." Remnants of Mystic Lake have been protected as part of the San Jacinto Wildlife Area. The national forests of the Mogollon Rim contain more than 17,000 acres of montane wetlands.

Importance to waterfowl

  • Approximately 110,000 ducks winter on the Salton Sea, including half of the Pacific Flyway ruddy duck population.
  • More than 25,000 snow and Ross's geese winter on the Salton Sea.

Habitat issues

  • Sonoran and Mohave Deserts mapLoss of habitat to urban and agricultural development, ground water pumping, surface-water diversion, overgrazing.
  • Salt content in Salton Sea is 30 percent more than in the Pacific Ocean. High salt content may be effecting fish, causing them to accumulate toxins and, in turn, passing on these contaminants to fish-eating birds.
  • Hundreds of thousands of eared grebes have died from disease outbreaks since 1992.
  • Urbanization in Riverside County, Calif., is encroaching on the San Jacinto wetland complex.
  • Invasive, non-native plants such as salt cedar have seriously damaged riparian corridors throughout the region.

DU's conservation focus

  • Lead wetland restoration partnerships funded through NAWCA, such as the lower Colorado and lower Gila rivers wetlands project.
  • Provide engineering services to national wildlife refuges and state wildlife areas to provide water supplies to restored wetland habitats.
  • Seasonal wetland restoration on the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Focus on viable floodplain restorations along the lower Colorado River corridor, partnering with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Reclamation.
  • DU completed several wetland enhancement projects in the Coconino National Forest in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

States in the Sonoran and Mohave Deserts region

Arizona | CaliforniaNevadaNew Mexico | Parts of Mexico

More information