Famous for its species, size and scenery
The Chihuahuan Desert is the largest and most ecologically diverse desert in the world, spanning southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, parts of western Texas and central- northern Mexico. It is mostly a mild temperate climate with subtropical wilderness.
The Chihuahuan Desert is known for its mounds of gleaming white limestone with much of the terrain made up of limestone formations, with potash and igneous rocks thrown in for good measure.
This region was humid around 9,000 years ago and the hillsides were covered with trees. As the region became more arid, the fauna became isolated, differentiated and sometimes disappeared, resulting in the particular biodiversity of today’s Chihuahua.
The unusual flora and fauna of the desert
The eastern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert is one of the oldest and most diverse centers of plant evolution on the continent.
The ecozone contains a diverse range of plant species, from arid trees and shrubs in the lowlands to coniferous woodlands in the highlands.
The desert is home to around 3,500 types of vegetation, including around a quarter of all cactus species on the planet. About 1,000 plant species are found exclusively in this ecozone.
Yucca groves, playas, limestone mounds, and a wide array of freshwater are some of the unique habitat types found in the Chihuahuan Desert. This desert is also distinguished by vast desert grasslands and a diverse range of yuccas and succulents, including many native species.
The wide range of mammals and reptiles
Bull elk, bighorn sheep, cougar, javelina, and gray fox are just a few of the large-winged mammals found in the 130 types of the Chihuahuan Desert. It is home to the largest group of black-tailed prairie dogs on the continent and the only native Mexican species of prairie dog. Grizzly bears, coyotes and cougars have been seen in the Chihuahuan Desert in the past.
Pumas, cheetahs and golden eagles still roam several places. More than 170 species of amphibians and reptiles live in the Chihuahuan Desert. The ecoregion is home to at least 18 native species.
The Chihuahuan Desert also has a surprising amount of unique fish – nearly 50% of the 110 species of fish found there are native or in limited numbers. The majority of species are fossils found in solitary springs in confined pools.
About 400 species of birds are found in the biodiversity hotspot, the majority of which are widespread, with only a few native ones. The majority of North American plains birds winter in the grasslands of the Chihuahuan Desert, including a variety of critically endangered species such as the alpine plover, tufa hawk, and Baird’s sparrow. Riparian canals along Pecos and Rio Grande creeks are used by Neotropical migratory birds.
The beautiful scenery and landscape of the desert
The Franklin Rockies and El Pasoof Mountains, divided by valleys across the region, are notable features of the Chihuahuan Desert. The Franklin Mountains, which run through El Paso in the northern Chihuahuan Desert, are a typical mid-sized hill.
Mountain ranges in the desert range from small ridges to majestic peaks. Nevertheless, these mountains provide habitats not found on flat plains and introduce new species to the region’s biosphere.
The highest peaks are often referred to as biotic islands because the high elevations are home to creatures native to northern climes but are cut off from inhabitants by the adjacent arid plains.
The Tularosa Basin
The Tularosa Basin lies north of the Oscura Range. Bolsons, or basins, are physically deep pits that have been partially filled with deposits from nearby hills. Bolsons are usually produced by failing stones, with raised or tilted slabs on either side separating the basins.
These basins and hills extend in a broad north-south or northwest-southeast direction across much of the Chihuahuan Desert. The northern and southern edges of the bolsons are usually bounded by less noticeable structural highs.
The dry lakes or Playas
The uplands encircle the basins on all flanks, so the flow is mostly local, with dry playas or basins in the lower parts of the basins only retaining water seasonally.
Rivers beginning in the Franklin Mountains flooded the basins with deposits to the point that the overflow occurred at the lowest edge, eventually connecting the chain of basins by a through stream. The Rio Grande is a remarkable example.
The mountains of the Chihuahua desert
The ecological richness of the Chihuahuan Desert region is greatly enhanced by the desert highlands, which provide a variety of macro and microclimatic variables not present at the desert level. In general, elevation elevation brings cold weather and more efficient humidity, while topographic variation opens up a variety of ecosystems not found on the plains.
High mountains within or on the edge of the desert frequently contain woods and forests and are separated from other natural vegetation by scrubland or desert. The Animas Range in southeastern New Mexico is a prime example of what are known as the Sky Isles.
The desert climate
- Summers are long, hot and humid. Winters are brief, however, they can feature occasional bouts of below freezing conditions.
- Chihuahuan receives higher summer rainfall than other nearby deserts during monsoon storms and has colder winters.
- The limestone bedrock, combined with the temperate climate, produces more grasslands than in other hotter deserts.
The immense biodiversity observed in the Chihuahuan Desert makes it a fascinating and popular destination.
Due to its geography, visitors can see truly unique and native wildlife. It is undoubtedly an excellent place for anyone who wants to discover the wild nature of the region while learning about its flora and animals.
NEXT: See the shifting rocks of Death Valley and other desert phenomena