Chihuahuan Desert Network
Approximately 4,460 sq. kilometers (1,722 sq. miles) of the total land area of the Chihuahuan Desert is contained in the national park units comprising the Chihuahuan Desert Network. While this only comprises approximately 0.07% of the total land area of the Chihuahuan Desert (including both the U.S. and Mexico), it represents the nation's most significant areas of preserved Chihuahuan Desert landscape.
These park units are an important component of the entire ecoregion and are integral keystone ecosystems to protecting and preserving the biodiversity of the entire Chihuahuan Desert Ecoregion. Therefore, it is imperative that the seven park units, along with Chamizal National Monument a fellow Chihuahuan Desert park, network and partner with other protected areas, agencies, institutions, organizations, governments both in the U.S. and Mexico, and others to promote research, investigation, inventory and monitoring, and conservation of this vital ecoregion.
Much of the land administered by the Chihuahuan Desert Network parks has a history of resource use that has resulted in significant alteration. Descriptions from the 1800s described the Chihuahuan Desert landscape as dominated by native grasses, with widely scattered shrub cover, and extensive cienegas and riparian gallery forests. However, a history of fire suppression, over-grazing, and competition from non-native species has resulted in loss of the native grasses and the invasion of the grasslands by woody shrubs and small trees. Diversion of water from the riparian areas has impacted river flows, altered flood patterns, and destroyed most of the gallery forests and cienegas. Mexican Wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) have been extirpated from the region, while Antelope (Antilocapra americana) and Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) numbers are much reduced from their former abundance. Today, threats to the Chihuahuan Desert include accelerating development around urban centers and along the US-Mexico border, agricultural expansion, overuse of riparian areas, air and water pollution, invasive non-native species, and illegal collection of native species.