What is buffelgrass?

Buffelgrass is a perennial grass from Africa that is invasive to the Sonoran Desert of the Southwest United States, where it threatens desert ecosystems by out-competing native plants and altering fire regimes. It has the potential to transform the Sonoran Desert ecosystem from a diverse assemblage of plants to a grassland monoculture.

Buffelgrass was brought to Arizona in the 1930s for erosion control and began expanding rapidly in the 1980s. Left unchecked, buffelgrass will dominate the desert landscape and could cause regular, fast-moving wildfires.

USGS research shows that early treatment of areas invaded by buffelgrass can dramatically reduce the presence of this species.

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August 26, 2010

PubTalk 8/2010 — Invasives and Wildfires in the West

New Crossroads in Science, Policy, and Management

by Julio Betancourt, Sr. Scientist and Desert Ecologist

  • Exponential spread of non-native grasses is a pressing environmental issue in American Deserts
  • Invasive grasses increased fuel continuity and large wildfires in desert scrub that previously experienced little or no
Dense stand of Buffelgrass choking out native vegetation in Saguaro National Park, AZ
March 6, 2007

Dense stand of Buffelgrass, Saguaro National Park, AZ

Dense stand of the invasive grass buffelgrass choking out native vegetation in Saguaro National Park, Arizona.

image of bufflegrass in arizona sonoran desert
November 30, 2000

Sonoran Desert Landscape Buffelgrass

Figure 1. Examples of (left) a Sonoran Desert landscape showing the characteristic arrangement of patches of native vegetation separated by bare ground; and (right) a Sonoran Desert landscape that has been invaded by buffelgrass, which fills in the open spaces to form a relatively continuous mat of highly flammable plant

Graphs depicting Buffelgrass Invasion of Native Arizona Vegetation
November 30, 2000

Buffelgrass Invasion of Native Arizona Vegetation

Figure 10. Correlation coefficients for various amounts of buffelgrass in the five dominant vegetation types at SNP that have buffelgrass invasion. In these graphs, the horizontal axis values represent the number of prior time periods over which precipitation is summed, with 0 = current precipitation, 1= precipitation from the previous time period, 2 =

Map of data collected from citizen scientists in the tucson area
November 30, 2000

Citizen Science Buffelgrass Observation

Figure 2.Map showing the locations of the citizen science buffelgrass observation sites in Tucson, Arizona, and the outlined polygons of buffelgrass patches in Saguaro National Park East and West. Buffelgrass density is coded as High (H); Medium (M); Low (L) and Trace (T).