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Biotic Communities

of Arizona

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Pinyon Pine-Juniper Woodland

Pinyon pine and several different species of juniper characterize this "pygmy" woodland. The woodland grows from about 5000 feet to 7000 feet in parts of the state where annual precipitation is 12 to nearly 20 inches. The open nature of the woodland allows many kinds of shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers to grow among the small trees. The tree species of this community have inherited drought resistance from southern areas and cold resistance from northern areas. Juniper tends to grow in more arid areas as its scaled foliage allows it to conserve water more effectively than pinyon pine, which grows in slightly wetter areas.

The pinyon jay is a common site among the "dwarfed" pines of this community. These bluish birds comb the woodlands in large groups seeking pinyon pine seeds and insects to eat. These large groups allow the jays to find important food they could not find on their own in an area where food is often unpredictable, limited, and seasonal. Other birds, including northern flickers and Clark's nutcrackers, often join the jays taking advantage of their ability to track down good seed crops. A few other vertebrates are closely tied to the pinyon-juniper woodland and include the pinyon mouse, bushy-tailed woodrat, and the black-throated gray warbler. This community serves as important winter range for rocky mountain elk and mule deer.

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