Chihuahuan Desert

The Chihuahuan Desert Ecoregion, which is shared by two countries, is separated from neighbouring arid regions by two mountain ranges: the Sierra Madre Occidental to the west and the Sierra Madre Oriental to the east.
Deserts are rarely thought of as important reservoirs of biological diversity due to their name, but some deserts are incredibly diverse in terms of species, rare plants and animals, specialised habits, and unique biological communities. 
The Chihuahuan Desert is one of the most diverse deserts in the Western Hemisphere, as well as one of the world's most diverse arid regions. Sadly, the Chihuahuan Desert Ecoregion is also one of the world's most endangered ecosystems.
deserts of america


  • The Chihuahuan Desert stretches from the southern United States to the Central Mexican Highlands, making it the biggest desert in North America.
  • It covers areas of New Mexico, Texas, and southeastern Arizona in the United States. It has a minimum elevation of over 1,000 feet, but the main part of the desert is between 3,500 and 5,000 feet in elevation.
  • It is situated between the eastern and western Sierra Madre mountain ranges, which are two of Mexico's major mountain ranges.


  • Mule deer and pronghorn are among the more than 130 mammal species found in the desert. The vast grasslands of the northern desert are home to the kit fox. 
  • There are over 3,000 plant species in the Chihuahuan Desert, including over 500 of the world's 1,500 cactus species. The desert is also home to North America's largest prairie dog colony, as well as over 500 bird species' nesting sites and migratory habitats. 
  • Its rivers are home to more than 110 native freshwater fish species. Roadrunners scurry through the desert scrub in search of earless lizards, while golden eagles hunt for black-tailed jackrabbits among the agave and creosote.
  • In an otherwise dry region, the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo mainstem and the Rio Conchos contain important large river habitats. Bird migrations and other large-scale ecological phenomena are also influenced by these watercourses. 
  • The aquatic fauna has evolved to survive in highly variable flood and drought cycles that occur both within and across years.
  • The Chihuahuan Desert's eastern boundary is one of the continent's oldest and most diverse centres of plant evolution. The ecoregion contains a diverse range of vegetation communities, from desert shrublands at lower elevations to conifer woodlands at higher elevations.
  • Yucca woodlands, playas, gypsum dunes, and a diverse array of freshwater habitats 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 agaves, including many endemic species.


Because it receives more summer rain during monsoon thunderstorms and has colder winters than the Sonoran and Mojave deserts, the Chihuahuan desert is distinguished from the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. 
Summers are hot, and winters are cool to cold and dry. Annual precipitation ranges from 150 to 500 mm (6 to 20 inches), with monsoonal rains accounting for the majority of the rain during the summer months.
The Chihuahuan Desert's basin and range topography consists of broad desert valleys (basins) bordered by terraces, mesas, and mountains (ranges). Rainwater drains internally in these closed basins, forming salt lakes or playas. Quartz sand or gypsum sand dune fields are also common.
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The tiniest actions on this landscape can upset its fragile equilibrium, compromising its life-giving qualities. Ranching is a way of life here, and the limited surface water available is frequently diverted to agriculture irrigation or cattle feeding. 
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Overgrazing, overharvesting of native species such as mesquite, gypsum mining, and widespread development are all causing nature's delicate balance to be disrupted.

Maintaining the Balance

  • In the Janos Valley, just south of the Arizona-New Mexico border, the Conservancy is collaborating with local NGOs, ranchers, and state and national governments to protect the Chihuahuan Desert.
  • The world's largest colony of black-tailed prairie dogs can be found in the valley. In 2005, the Conservancy partnered with Pronatura Noreste to purchase and protect Rancho El Uno, a 49,000-acre prairie dog critical habitat.
  • An ever-increasing human population, water misuse and mismanagement, cattle and goat overgrazing, and a lack of knowledge about the desert's ecological importance are all threatening the magnificent landscape. 
  • For more than 15 years, WWF has worked in the northern Chihuahuan Desert with binational partners to protect and restore freshwater and grassland ecosystems for the benefit of wildlife and people.

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