Habitat: “The natural home or environment of an animal, plant or other organism.”
The freshwater marsh is home to aquatic plants that grow in or near the water including cattail (Typha latifolia), smart weed and other plants. In 2009, the 4 acres of marsh were completely inundated with cattail. With grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, we were able to remove by hand 70% of the cattail allowing for open water for the birds and wildlife. Wetland habitats in the United States currently are lost at a rate of 260,000 acres/year. With the restoration and protection of this natural resource, we have been able to provide a much needed habitat to over two hundred species of birds that migrate or nest here. Our wetlands is considered a “deep water” marsh meaning that it has at least 24″ of water for most of the year. Depending on the monsoon and winter rains, the rate of evaporation and the drainage into Potrero creek, we often lose water in the summertime. The marsh is caused by the existence of the Nogales Formation; a tight conglomerate beneath the surface. The Las Lagunas de Anza wetlands is considered the last remaining riparian marsh in the upper Santa Cruz River watershed.
The riparian forest refers to the vegetation, habitat and ecosystems associated with the marsh boundaries. The water close to the surface supports a gallery of Fremont cottonwoods and Gooding’s willow. In the southwest United States, riparian areas support more breeding birds than all other western habitats combined. Las Lagunas provides an abundance of insects, feeding zones, and nesting sites for birds. The riparian habitat is important to migrating birds as they depend on it more than any other type of habitat in the state. The riparian bank attracts nesting herons, raptors, owls, flycatchers, kingbirds, tanagers, orioles, wrens and many species of songbirds. Species of mammals, reptiles and insects are found in this habitat as well.
Non native plants also exist along the riparian bank, the most prevalent being Arundo Donax. This giant reed can take over if not managed. At Las Lagunas, the arundo donax serves as a cover or screen for the adjacent parking lot and warehouse and also acts as a shady corridor along the north perimeter. Because this non native reed also serves a purpose, we manage and monitor it daily. Over the last three centuries Arizona has lost 95% of its historic gallery cottonwood/willow riparian forest due to clearing and filling in for agriculture and damming of rivers for flood protection and power. Through the help of our grant partners, staff, youth groups and volunteers, this habitat is a place for birds and wildlife to continue to thrive and for us to enjoy.
The Bosque or upper bench of mesquite, elderberry, hackberry and flowering vines and understory shrubs create a multi-layered world above the other two habitats. This habitat has become a subtropical forest community that is attractive to a diverse assemblage of wildlife including songbirds, reptiles and small and medium size mammals. By creating trails through the upper bench bosque and keeping the interior “natural” we allow for the wildlife and for the visitor to enjoy the beauty of this site.