National Park Service

Chihuahuan Desert Network (CHDN)

About the Chihuahuan Desert Ecoregion

Amistad National Recreation Area Big Bend National Park Desert View at Big Bend National Park Javelina munching on a cactus at Big Bend NP Mountain lion trcks at Big Bend NP Night sky at Big Bend NP Slate-throated redstart (bird) Big Bend Natonal Park Internal cave view at Carlsbad Caverns National Park Massive outflying of bats from Carlsbad Caverns at dusk Texas banded gecko at Carlsbad Caverns NP Guadalupe Mountains National Park Desert rainstorm at Guadalupe Mountains National Park Roadrunner at Guadalupe Mountains National Park Black Bear at Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River Dunes at White Sands National Monument Canoeing along the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River Prairie rattlesnake at White Sands National Monument Desert grasslands at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Deserts, by their very name, are seldom regarded as important reservoirs of biological diversity, but some deserts are extraordinarily rich in species, rare plants and animals, specialized habits, and unique biological communities. The Chihuahuan Desert shared by two nations is the most biologically diverse desert in the Western Hemisphere and one of the most diverse arid regions in the world. The eastern boundary of the Chihuahuan Desert is one of the oldest and richest centers of plant evolution on the North American continent. The Ecoregion encompasses some 70 million hectares. The region extends nearly 1,500 km from south of Albuquerque, New Mexico to 250 km north of Mexico City, including much of the states of the Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi, as well as large parts of New Mexico and the Trans-Pecos region of Texas.

Some distinctive habitat types in the Chihuahuan Desert include yucca woodlands, playas, gypsum dunes, and a diverse array of freshwater habitats. Nearly a quarter of the world's cactus species thrive in the Chihuahuan Desert. The Chihuahuan Desert was one of the few ecoregions where grizzly bears, wolves, and jaguars could be found at the same locality. Several sites still retain a remaining complement of larger vertebrates, including mountain lions, jaguars, and Golden Eagles.

The northern region of the Chihuahuan Desert supports more than 120 species of mammals, 450 species of birds, 110 species of fish, and more than 170 species of amphibians and reptiles. Chihuahuan Desert grasslands serve as wintering grounds for a large proportion of North American Great Plains birds including a number of significantly declining species such as Mountain Plover, Ferruginous Hawk and Baird's Sparrow. Neotropical migratory birds utilize riparian corridors along the Pecos River and the Rio Grande, and monarch butterflies also rely on the riparian vegetation of several Chihuahuan passes to rest during their migration.

For more information, visit the Science of the American Southwest site.

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Last Updated: October 20, 2016 Contact Webmaster