Plant Ecology

, Volume 215, Issue 6, pp 581–595 | Cite as

The keystone saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea, Cactaceae): a review of its ecology, associations, reproduction, limits, and demographics

  • Taly Dawn DreznerEmail author
Braun-Blanquet Review


This paper reviews the basics of a Sonoran Desert keystone cactus species, including the ecology of its establishment and high mortality, its association with nurse plants to provide ameliorated conditions for survival, and variability in longevity and reproduction over its range such as delayed reproduction in hotter and more arid populations where this delay is met with longer lifespans. The production of flowers, branches, and spines from areoles is reviewed, as well as current methods for estimating individual age despite great variability in growth rates, most notably linked to summer rainfall. Possible implications of anthropogenic influences that impact populations as well as global climate change are discussed as are implications for potential range shifts in the future. This paper also provides a table listing of over 100 birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, and other animal species that use Carnegiea and highlighting its keystone status.


Cactus Carnegiea gigantea Keystone species 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyYork UniversityTorontoCanada

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