The lands of Northern Sonora, just 100 miles from the US border, were once shaded by lush forests of deciduous trees. In the cool shade, big cats and the wild peccaries they hunted lived in a flourishing ecosystem.
Throughout the 20th century, those forests were clear cut to make room for cattle. Decades of grazing further eroded the topsoil, as cows devoured all native vegetation in sight.
With no roots to hold water, the ground became hard and dry. With no trees to hold back the wind, the dust is whipped across the landscape. With no vegetation, the peccaries have nothing to eat. With no peccaries, the jaguars cannot survive.
This is how a critical ecosystem can completely collapse when a single link is removed from the chain. But thanks to the help of Project Wildcat, critical habitats in Northern Sonora will avoid entropy.
With support from your donations, the flora and fauna of this region have a chance to survive. Project Wildcat, a signature program of GreaterGood.org, with the help of Colectivo Sonora Silvestre have planted 1,000 cottonwood and willow tree saplings in Sonora. These trees will help the soil retain more water, making more nutrients available for other plants.
An ecosystem bolstered by these trees will support more food sources for native animals like the peccary, in turn providing more food for jaguars like Luisa, a species success story captured on one of Project Wildcat’s trail cameras.
These apex predators have been dwindling ever since local landowners first started converting the jaguars’ habitat to farmland. Due to a decrease of inhabitable land, jaguars, ocelots, and other predators have resorted to attacking and eating local livestock to survive. Over the past three years, 8% of Sonora’s jaguar population have been killed by ranchers who felt threatened by the natural predators. At this rate, the Sonoran jaguar population could be wiped out in just a few decades.
Thanks to the efforts of Project Wildcat and the Northern Jaguar Project, there is now 58,240 acres of territory that is considered “jaguar friendly.” This territory is only 100 miles south of the US/Mexico border, says Brooke Nowak, Director of People and Planet Programs for GreaterGood.org. This includes Project Wildcat’s ranches and the neighboring territory owned and protected by the Northern Jaguar Project, with whom Project Wildcat works with to save these big cats.
The saplings will help clean the air and watershed along the Rio Yaqui, an important resource for the health and economy of the state of Sonora- At least 45% of all the wheat in Mexico grows in this region, all of it dependent on water from the Rio Yaqui.
Colectivo Sonora Silvestre, “an independent group of biology students from the University of Sonora and engineering students from the Technological University of Cananea focused on ecosystem conservation in Sonora,” planted and cultivated the saplings from seed.
According to Borderlands Restoration Network, “This self-organized, and largely self-funded, student collective is doing incredible work from wildlife monitoring, to quality assessments of natural spring ecosystems and documenting the presence of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) populations in Sonora. In addition, they are developing an environmental education program focused on habitat conservation in rural and urban schools along the Rio Sonora. This education effort has the twin goals of promoting biodiversity conservation and strengthening relationships between communities and their local flora and fauna.”
Many of the students and members involved in the Colectivo Sonora Silvestre have also participated in Madrean Discovery Expeditions through the Sky Islands.
MDE is a Signature Program of GreaterGood.org, dedicated to exploring, studying, and protecting the Madrean Archipelago, a series of unique ecosystems that range from New Mexico and Arizona to Mexico. Throughout the year, groups of uniquely qualified and multinational participants come together to record the plants and animals of this incredible region, focusing on the vastly understudied region of Sonora, Mexico.
With your support, Project Wildcat, MDE and other signature programs of GreaterGood.org are protecting important species and ecosystems. Click below to help them make a difference.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.