El Imparcial publishes videos and articles on recent Madrean Discovery Expedition to Sierra El Tigre

Twelve Days From the Rio Tutuaca

Confluence of Rio Tutuaca and Sirupa, begin Rio Aros

By Huck

Recently I had the opportunity to see, by raft, the country I've been tramping overland for the last couple of decades. Just getting to the put-in of our trip was a logistical conundrum and an exercise in patience. We needed a shuttle driver who was comfortable in the fringe area of Copper Canyon, Chihuahua, and the driver might have to spend two, maybe three nights on the road before getting home. Then he would have to pick us up in 10 or 11 or 12 days; and who knew for sure. This trip is best attempted when the water has a good flow, but unbeknownst to us, a tropical hurricane (Norbert) was heading for the sierras preparing to drop 3 days of solid rain in the drainages that fed our rivers. We recently had some decent enough flows from summer monsoons after a prolonged dry spell to even attempt this project. As it turned out, it rained all night and part of the second day as we headed deeper into Chihuahua from the take-out point near Sahuaripa, Sonora. The side canyons in the cordillera of the sierras were roaring with brown water--not a good sign. The next day we contemplated a delay, but a promising sucker hole of robin egg blue sky beckoned us further as we polished off breakfast of strong coffee, papaya and granola bars. We left the highway on a broad sinuous dirt road for the last 100 kilometers, a four hour drive to a rickety logging bridge halfway between Yepachic and Madera. (Photo gallery from trip)

Remembering Biogladiator Peter Warshall, 1943–2013

Peter Warshall

Peter Warshall was able to excel in many divergant endevors. He chose to put his multi-faceted talent into bettering the world. I knew him through struggles to protect Mt Graham, interests in biogeography, and work to protect jaguars and other species in eastern Sonora. Any time I read or hear stories about Peter, I learn of another aspect of his work that is surprising and admirable. Conservation Biology recently published an obituary for him by Joel Helfrich that is worth reading. Read "Remembering Biogladiator Peter Warshall, 1943–2013" here.

Sulfuric acid spill contaminates Rio Sonora watershed

On August 7, 2014 ten million gallons of a mining wastewater solution broke through containment at the Buenavista copper mine just outside of Cananea, Sonora. The sulfuric acid solution was released into the Rio Bacanuchi, a tributary of Rio Sonora, one of the largest watersheds in Sonora.

Rio Sonora is a key water source for many communities including Arizpe, Sinoquipe, Banámichi, Aconchi, Baviácora, Mazocahui, and Ures, along with substantial agriculture along its lower reaches. Rio Sonora headwaters are near the spill area just south of the US border. It then flows south over 200 km before turning west towards Hermosillo, which until recently used a reservoir on the Rio Sonora as its primary municipal water source. The Indepencia Pipeline connecting to the Rio Yaqui started delivering water to Hermosillo and its 800,000 people last year, freeing the city of its reliance on water from the Rio Sonora.

The contamination has colored the river a burnt orange and killed livestock, fish, and likely innumerable other aquatic animals. Grupo Mexico owns the Buenavista copper mine, which contains one of the larger known veins of copper on Earth. Effective cleanup of such a spill is not feasible. Likely many of the contaminants will be flushed by monsoon rains and flooding to downstream reservoirs, where it will remain in water and sediment.

Invasive Plants in the Sonoran Desert

By Garry Rogers

(First in series on Sonoran Desert invasive plants.)

Introduction to Invasive Plants in Deserts

Invasive species, like storm troopers leading the surging ruin of global warming, are demolishing Earth's ecosystems.

A diversity impaired firescape.Photograph: Once diverse landscape of small trees and tall Saguaro cactus was converted to impoverished shrubland after invasion by fire-prone plants.

Once they began crossing the oceans, Humans introduced thousands of plant species to new regions.  Freed of the diseases and competitors of their homeland, some of the introduced species began spreading into native habitats.  For instance, Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), introduced to the interior of the western U. S. during the 1800s began spreading, and now dominates many millions of acres.  Such invasions produce vegetation with low structural diversity and biotic communities with low genetic diversity (Tellman 2002).  In 2007, the U. S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had this to say about the state of the invasion of the western U.S.

Road through the center of El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve?

New road through El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve?Is there a new highway planned to bisect the pristine El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve? It appears that it is at least an idea from photos acquired by Wild Sonora. These maps seem to show a 4-lane separated highway cut-off from Route 2 through the sand dunes just west of Pinacate down to the Route 3 coastal highway. The length from maps appears to be about 50 km and cuts right down the east/west center of the reserve.

Offroad race planned for Gran Desierto de Altar

Rally Diabolico(Update: this race has been put on hold, likely due to permit issues with the Mexican government.)

Southern California based off-roaders are organizing a "TRUE off-road" rally race across some of the most intact and undamaged land in North America. The exact route has not been released to the public or participants to prevent scouting. Most likely it will occur to the west or southwest of the El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve and potentially within the Alto Golfo de California Biosphere Reserve in western Sonora.

This area is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site and part of numerous protected areas on both sides of the border together making one of the largest protected areas in North America. Beyond these designations it is incredibly beautiful and biologically rich. More than 540 species of vascular plants, 44 mammals, more than 200 birds and over 40 reptiles inhabit the seemingly inhospitable desert*. Noteworthy species include the Sonoran Pronghorn, an endemic subspecies restricted to the south-western Arizona and north-western Sonora and threatened by extinction.


Subscribe to Wild Sonora RSS