By: Alvin George
Summary: In the Southwest of the United States, construction of Donald Trump’s Mexican border wall continues. To clear a path for the wall the ironic saguaro cacti along the border are being uprooted and destroyed. These plants can reach heights of over 50 feet tall and live for around 200 years. These ancient plants are being destroyed to keep those in Mexico from entering the United States. Saguaros are no ordinary cactus since they provide food and shelter to native species. These plants are the state flower of Arizona and in Arizona it is illegal to harm a saguaro cactus like they are by those building the wall. Those caught harming the majestic saguaro cacti can face fines and even jail time for the harm. These laws are being ignored by the construction team responsible for the wall. Even worse is that the saguaro isn’t the only cactus species that is being affected by Donald Trump’s border wall. Organ pipe cactus is also affected at a park on the border. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument sits at the border and is one of the places where this cactus seems to thrive. The park is a unique ecosystem due to the right conditions for this type of cactus to grow. This park was made to protect the native organ cactus and would be failing in its purpose if it allows the border wall to cut through the park. If the wall goes through the park, then the rare organ pipe cacti will have to be destroyed or relocated.
Why we should care? The people are the ones who pay for the protection of these cacti. This cacti damage is a form of habitat loss since the cacti provide a home for bird species and produce edible fruits. These cacti are also significant to the tribal people.
This article was interesting to me because we could see how the construction contractors dealt with the problem of the cacti. There have been attempts to relocate some of the cacti but it is impossible to move a mature saguaro since they just grow so big. The fact that they were able to price saguaros by the foot and differently for mature ones is fascinating since they take a while to grow. We also see that the contractors are hiding the destroyed plants to avoid spending the time and money on the relocation of compensation for the damages. Surprisingly, the company is waived from the damages to cacti for the walls construction.
Dr. David Dettman is a Research Scientist and Manager of the University of Arizona's Environmental Isotope Laboratory.
Dr. Dettman is currently working on a research project that to determine the changes in climate will impact the saguaro and columnar cacti species. He claims that the cacti is a foundation species due to the water and food they supply to the ecosystem. By looking at the presence of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon isotope ratios, he can determine growth rates, fertility, and recorded climate changes as to the rings on a tree. Dr. Dettman’s research is significant to this blogpost due to him using his research to say that the Sonoran Desert relies on the saguaro cacti. Without them there would be drastic changes to the environment of the desert.