Your neighborhood has a name, but what do we call neighborhoods in nature?
We call them “life zones,” “ecological zones,” or abbreviated, “eco-zones.” Here, at a given altitude, we find a climate and all the plants and animals that thrive in it. Depending on the degree of detail, some count more than 10 different zones in Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon. Let’s discuss the three most prominent ones.
The first is “high desert.” As a true desert receives less than 12 inches of precipitation – and Sedona averages 14 – it doesn’t actually qualify for desert status. Nonetheless, the term is locally popular, and reflects a generally dry climate. About half of Sedona’s precipitation in this “neighborhood” comes from rain, in the form of the summer monsoons, and half from snow, which tends to fall on winter nights and melt away quickly in the morning.
“High desert” terrain often rests between 3,500 and 5,500 feet of altitude (as Sedona does) and is sometimes referred to as “pygmy forest.” This reflects the short height of Arizona cypresses, junipers and piñon pine trees. “P.J.”, as in piñon and junipers, is another common name. Manzanita and scrub oak (or “shrub live oak”) bushes are also common. In high desert we find javelinas, coyotes, bobcats, deer, and jackrabbits, along with falcons, hawks, ravens and western jays.