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Biotic Communities

of Arizona

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The beauty and diversity of Arizona's plantlife is remarkable. Where else in the country can one see stands of giant saguaro cactus and lush groves of quaking aspen, all in a single day's walk? Scientists studying the state's flora have categorized the region's plants into a number of major biotic communities. Several factors influence which communities are found at any given location, whether it be a lowland valley or a high mountain slope. The most important factors are precipitation (rain and/or snowfall) and temperature. As one moves upward in elevation, precipitation generally increases and temperature decreases. Thus one finds common Sonoran Desert plants such as saguaro and cholla growing outside of Phoenix, while to the north, but more importantly 5000 feet higher, cool forests of ponderosa pine and gambel oak thrive along the Mogollon Rim near Flagstaff. Other factors affecting plant distribution are sun exposure, fire history, and soil type.

Click on the biotic communities highlighted below to find out more about Arizona's varied plant and animal life.

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