Severe fires followed by intense monsoon precipitation alter streams, springs and entire watersheds in rapid and sometimes catastrophic ways in the increasingly arid Sky Island Region. Burned areas that receive no rehabilitative treatment experience destructive erosion due to lack of ecosystem recovery. As fires grow in size, larger portions of wildlife habitat in isolated mountain ranges are destroyed or altered, decreasing wildlife resources in a region with high biodiversity and many niche habitats.
Sky Island Alliance worked with land managers and restoration practitioners to identify high-value watersheds that have already experienced catastrophic wildfire or that are likely to in the near future. They have installed hundreds of low-tech erosion control structures in these watersheds to increase resilience before and after such fires and mitigate their negative impacts. they are increasing nectar and other food resources for wildlife by installing climate-smart assemblages of native plants in severely burned areas devoid of these resources. These complementary strategies reduce both in-channel and sheet erosion at the top of watersheds, increase water infiltration, protect spring habitats from sedimentation, and restore food resources for wildlife and pollinators.
These methods are increasing fuel moisture levels, water availability, and resources for wildlife and pollinators. Erosion control structures increase soil moisture, slow debris and sediment flows, and provide microhabitats that aid in post-fire recovery and provide protection from intense fire effects through increased soil moisture and vegetation cover. These affordable tools and strategies can be installed using low-cost/onsite materials and volunteer labor. Sky Island Alliance is working with land managers across federal, state, and private land jurisdictions on programmatic environmental compliance solutions to bring this work to the landscape-level scale for widespread ecological benefit.