Chihuahuan Desert

Chihuahuan Desert
Arid Region
Chihuahuan Desert.jpg
The Chihuahuan Desert in West Texas
CountryMexico and the United States
RegionNorth America
Coordinates30°32′26″N 103°50′14″W / 30°32′26″N 103°50′14″W / 30.54056; -103.83722
Highest point
 - elevation3,700 m (12,139 ft)
Lowest point
 - elevation600 m (1,969 ft)
Length1,280 km (795 mi)
Width4,400 km (2,734 mi)
Area362,600 km2 (140,001 sq mi)
Chihuahuan Desert map.svg
Website: Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso

The Chihuahuan Desert is a desert and ecoregion designation covering parts of northern Mexico and the southern United States. It occupies much of West Texas, parts of the middle and lower Rio Grande Valley and the lower Pecos Valley in New Mexico, and a portion of southeastern Arizona, as well as the central and northern portions of the Mexican Plateau. It is bordered on the west by the extensive Sierra Madre Occidental range, along with northwestern lowlands of the Sierra Madre Oriental range. On the Mexican side, it covers a large portion of the state of Chihuahua, along with portions of Coahuila, north-eastern Durango, the extreme northern part of Zacatecas, and small western portions of Nuevo León. With an area of about 362,000 km2 (139,769 sq mi), it is the third largest desert of the Western Hemisphere and the second largest in North America, after the Great Basin Desert.[1]

Geography

The terrain mainly consists of basins broken by numerous small mountain ranges.

Several larger mountain ranges include the Sierra Madre, the Sierra del Carmen, the Organ Mountains, the Franklin Mountains, the Sacramento Mountains, the Chisos Mountains, the Guadalupe Mountains, and the Davis Mountains. These create "sky islands" of cooler, wetter, climates adjacent to, or within the desert, and such elevated areas have both coniferous and broadleaf woodlands, including forests along drainages and favored exposures. The Sandia-Manzano Mountains, the Magdalena-San Mateo Mountains, and the Gila Region border the Chihuahuan Desert at their lower elevations.

There are a few urban areas within the desert: the largest is Ciudad Juárez with almost two million inhabitants; Chihuahua, Saltillo, and Torreón; and the US city of El Paso. Las Cruces and Roswell are among the other significant cities in this ecoregion. Monterrey and Santa Fe are located near the Chihuahuan desert.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature the Chihuahuan Desert may be the most biologically diverse desert in the world as measured by species richness or endemism. The region has been badly degraded, mainly due to grazing.[2] Many native grasses and other species have become dominated by woody native plants, including creosote bush and mesquite, due to overgrazing and other urbanization. The Mexican wolf, once abundant, was nearly extinct and remains on the endangered species list.[3]

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