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jaguars of the sonoran sky islands

Madrean Archipelago Biodiversity Assessment (MABA)

Sky Island Alliance’s Madrean Archipelago Biodiversity Assessment is a visionary initiative to explore, document and protect one of the world's premier biodiversity hotspots –southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico’s Madrean Archipelago—the Sky Island region. Through the MABA project, we are committed to exploring and documenting the incredible biological diversity of remote and little studied Sky Islands, particularly in Sonora, Mexico. 

Big Pano Landscape
The rugged Sky Islands of Sonora, Mexico - looking east from the slopes of the Sierra Aconchi toward the distant Sierra Mazatán. (c) Charles Hedgcock.


Biodiversity expeditions, exploring isolated Sky Islands are a central part of Sky Island Alliance’s Madrean Archipelago Biodiversity Assessment. Priority study locations include areas of probable high biodiversity where biological documentation is sparse. Our project team also takes into consideration sites which have potential for conservation and restoration.

With support from U.S. and Mexican experts in the fields of botany, entomology, ornithology, herpetology, mammalogy, and other disciplines, MABA expeditions provide an opportunity for Sky Island Alliance staff and volunteers to collect critical biodiversity data, foster graduate and undergraduate research, raise awareness about conservation in the region and develop important relationships with regional landowners.

See the results from a few of the places we have explored:


Major Accomplishments

Major findings from MABA so far include the discovery of four new plant species (Brickellia enigmatica, Coryphantha revurvata ssp. nov., Melampodium moctezumum, and Verbena moctezumae). We have documented species previously unknown to Sonora and over 10 new species of invertebrates have been discovered. 

In addition to scientific findings, the MABA team has engaged more than 100 secondary, high school and university students through presentations, workshops and field events.   

One of the greatest achievements of the Madrean Archipelago Biodiversity Assessment has been the development of a growing database of biodiversity. This remarkable natural history tool provides access to the region’s foremost collection of specimen records and species observations for anyone seeking to learn more about the Sky Islands. The database contains over 800,000 plant and animal records for the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora, and Chihuahua.  These data represent the products of MABA research expeditions as well as data from herbaria, museum collections, agencies and scientific literature.

Visit the MABA database at

Where we are headed

The Sierra la Púrica, northwest of Nacozari de García, is a priority location for exploration and study in 2013. This Sky Island in the Ajos-Bavispe Reserve has an elevational range of ca. 1250-1,800 m with oak woodland and pine-oak forest at higher elevations where we anticipate making at least 1,200 observations of animals and plants, including range extensions from the Sierra Madre Occidental and temperate areas in Arizona. Northern Sonora’s biggest block of protected public land, the Ajos-Bavispe Reserve, is also one of its wildest places.  

Our scientific expeditions depend on contributions from people like you.
Please support this work:


With the help of individual supporters, Sky Island Alliance expanded our work into Mexico in 2005.  With membership support, we are now a bi-national organization working on a landscape level to address conservation issues effecting the whole Sky Island region. Your support makes possible future expeditions, outreach and research and will help increase the database that houses information critical to understanding and conservation of key plant and animal species.

For More Information, contact:

> Chriatopher Morris, Restoration Coordinator,
> Jessica Moreno, Conservation Manager,

Sky Island Alliance has partnered with and is excited they have chosen the MABA project as a Signature Program. Thank you for fully funding our 2013 expedition to the Sierra La Púrica!