The Chihuahuan Desert Ecosystem

TitleThe Chihuahuan Desert Ecosystem
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1999
AuthorsBeck RF, Gibbens, Robert P.
EditorHerrera E.A., Mexal J.
Book TitleEnsuring Sustainable Development of Arid Lands Through Time
PublisherNew Mexico Journal of Science
ARIS Log Number105708
AbstractThe Chihuahuan Desert is the least known of all the deserts in North America. It is the largest of the deserts and lies east of the continental divide between two mountain ranges in Mexico, Sierra Madre Occidental on the west and Sierra Madre Oriental on the east. On the south it borders mountains in Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi and to the north it opens onto broad valleys, basins, and high plains in New Mexico and west Texas. Because of its high elevation, averaging 1400 m above sea level, it is cooler than the other hot deserts in North America. Average precipitation is 235 mm/year and annual average temperature is over 18 deg C. Freezing temperatures in winter characterize the northern part of the desert, but are infrequent in the central and southern regions. A great variety of animals and plants live in the desert and characterize the wide variety of habitats resulting from the physiographic and climatic conditions found there. Much of the vegetation is characterized by desert scrub with grasslands and woodlands in more mesic areas, usually in uplands associated with the small mountains that dot the landscape. Large numbers of people live in and near the Chihuahuan Desert. As the human population continues to expand, more and more demands will be placed upon the limited resources of the Chihuahuan Desert. In this chapter we hope to present the wide variety of life and conditions that make the Chihuahuan Desert.