Climatic controls of saguaro (carnegiea gigantea) regeneration: A potential link with El Niño

Taly Dawn Drezner, Robert Balling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Saguaro cacti establish periodically in cohorts during years that are climatically favorable. Determining the establishment year is complicated by age-height relationships that vary considerably from site to site and require extensive data collection. Estimations of age-height relationships for only a few locales have thus limited the ability of researchers to estimate age in other populations, and consequently to relate periods of regeneration to climate. We collected data for 254 saguaros in the arid western portion of the species' range and employed a recently developed site-specific technique for estimating saguaro age to reconstruct the population structure at this locale. Second, we used discriminant analysis to determine which climate variables best predict regeneration years. We found that above-average temperatures in November coupled with concurrent high soil moisture levels, conditions typically associated with El Niño years, are associated with years characterized by high regeneration. Accordingly, these results suggest that El Niño events may be related to years of favorable regeneration for saguaros.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-475
Number of pages11
JournalPhysical Geography
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2002


  • Age-height relationships
  • Arizona
  • Carnegiea gigantea
  • El Niño
  • Recruitment
  • Regeneration
  • Saguaro cacti
  • Sonoran Desert

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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