Monitoring environmental impact in the Upper Sonoran Lifestyle: a new tool for rapid ecological assessment

Environ Manage. 2009 Feb;43(2):346-56. doi: 10.1007/s00267-008-9212-5. Epub 2008 Oct 11.


Characterized by expensive housing, high socioeconomic status, and topographic relief, Upper Sonoran Lifestyle communities are found primarily along the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) in the Phoenix, Arizona metro area. Communities like these sprawl into the wildlands in the United States Southwest, creating a distinct urban fringe. This article, through locational comparison, introduces and evaluates a new field assessment tool for monitoring anthropogenic impact on soil-vegetation interactions along the well-maintained multi-use recreational trails in Upper Sonoran Lifestyle region. Comparing data from randomly selected transects along other multi-use trails with data from a control site revealed three key indicators of anthropogenic disturbances on soil-vegetation interactions: soil disturbance, vegetation disturbance, and vegetation density. Soil and vegetation disturbance displayed an average distance decay exponent factor of -0.60, while vegetation density displayed a reverse decay average of 0.60. Other important indicators of disturbance included vegetation type, biological soil crusts, and soil bulk density. The predictive ability of this new field tool enhances its applicability, offering a powerful rapid ecological assessment method for monitoring long-term anthropogenic impact in the Upper Sonoran Lifestyle, and other sprawling cities along the WUI.

MeSH terms

  • Arizona
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Environment*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Plants
  • Recreation
  • Soil
  • Urbanization / trends*


  • Soil