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Saguaro Land: Wildfire is posing a bigger threat to the Sonoran Desert

By Mark Brodie
Published: Thursday, September 14, 2023 - 12:53pm
Updated: Thursday, September 14, 2023 - 1:10pm

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The Diamond Fire doubles overnight
The Diamond Fire on June 28, 2023.

Saguaro Land is a series from The Show looking at the Sonoran Desert — the lushest, hottest desert in the world that happens to be our home.

Arizona and the West have been dealing with longer wildfire seasons and more severe fires over the past several years. But Mary Lata says fire in the Sonoran Desert is becoming more common.

Lata is the fire ecologist for the Tonto National Forest, which is just shy of 3,000,000 acres. Of that, about 850,000 acres is in the Sonoran Desert, while on the northern end there are about 350,000 acres of ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forests. In between, there’s chaparral and woodlands.

Lata says fire moves across the landscape based on the vegetation, and that while some systems tend to burn quickly — think grasslands — others burn more slowly, but with high severity.

Lata spoke with The Show about how fire impacts the Sonoran Desert with The Show.

Trees on fire
The Valentine Fire in the Tonto National Forest on Aug. 25, 2023.

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