The loss of large natural areas due to development has increased interest for and use of vegetated areas in urban and suburban areas for wildlife habitats. The goal of this study was to quantify vegetation characteristics for each type of land cover found in the greater Tucson, Arizona area, thereby providing a predictive tool for wildlife management and other land management issues. This research was based on and is a continuation of a pilot study that developed a method associating land cover categories to aerial photographs in eastern Pima County, including the City of Tucson. Aggregation of land cover categories used by Tucson and Pima County and verifications of any uncertain classifications of land cover with field evaluations produced a consistent land cover classification system and database. Natural open space was the largest land cover category within our study area, comprising 52% of the total land cover. Riparian areas, low-density housing and natural open space areas had the highest percentage of native vegetation and escape cover. Golf and neighborhood parks ranked much lower than these land covers relative to native vegetation and escape cover (vegetation with foliage/stems at ground level). The most structurally diverse plant communities were associated with medium density residential areas and zoos that contain a relatively high number of exotic species. Results from the wildlife habitats index indicated riparian areas as the most valuable habitats in eastern Pima County (the county where Tucson is located), followed by low-density housing (≤1 residence/acre), natural open space, and federal/state parks and forests.
- Urban land cover
- Vegetation cover
- Wildlife habitats
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law