underground springs, small streams, and the Rio Grande River provide plants and animals with precious water.
Mule deer, pronghorn and kit fox roam the vast grasslands of the northern desert. In the desert scrub, roadrunners scurry after earless lizards while golden eagles search among the agave and creosote for blacktailed jackrabbits.
ever-increasing human population, water misuse and mismanagement, overgrazing by cattle and goats
home to more than 500 of the world's 1,500 species of cactus, as well as plant species such as creosote bush, tarbush, resurrection plant, whitethorn acacia, and numerous species of cacti, including several opuntia species.
Animal species include the jaguar, fast-running pronghorn, collared peccary or javelina, desert cottontail and bighorn sheep.
Among the bird species are the rare zone-tailed hawk, aplamado falcon, and a tremendous variety of hummingbirds.
Once a year the monarch butterflies migrate from Canada to southern Mexico, and during their amazing migration trip, they are responsible for the cross pollination of thousands of plants along the way - including numerous cacti species.
Water misuse and mismanagement
The overuse of water from rivers, streams and desert pools is causing a continual deterioration of aquatic ecosystems, many of which no longer support a permanent flow of water. The construction of dams, ground water extraction, deforestation and pollution from agrochemicals are all common problems facing the Chihuahuan Desert's major watersheds.
The landscape as we see it now is the result of several decades of cattle, sheep and goat overgrazing. During the past 150 years, grazing has changed the landscape dramatically, decreasing the number of native grasses and increasing the number of shrubs. Overgrazing has also led to the desertification of the land, eliminating large tracts of vegetation altogether.
Lack of knowledge of the Chihuahuan Desert's importance
In the past, deserts were often regarded as barren wastelands devoid of life or value. And humans inhabiting deserts believed that the ecosystem needed to be altered in order to make it more livable and economically valuable.
500 municipalities in México and the United States, and creating a complex political context where two countries and 10 states
manufacturing plants, known as maquiladoras. In the state of Chihuahua, they represent the main source of employment, with over 377,000 jobs active as of 2004. This economic expansion is drawing more people to the region in search of employment, increasing the demand for water, energy, housing and services.
home to more than 130 species of mammals and contains more than 3,000 plant species; provides nesting sites and migratory habitats for over 500 bird species; and harbors 110 native freshwater fish species in its rivers.
Extraction of copper, gypsum, salt, lime and sand have degraded the region.
An estimated 90 percent of the Rio Grande is regularly diverted for irrigation-in fact, in 2001 the river dried up for the first time in recent history, failing to reach the Gulf of Mexico.
The Rio Grande river basin is severely impacted by dams and other infrastructure projects that divert water resources. Its health is further threatened by urban wastewater, agricultural runoff and invasive species.
Poaching and unsustainable harvesting present serious threats to the region's rare plants and reptiles.
Mexican gray wolves, jaguars and black bears are on the brink of extinction in the Chihuahuan Desert due to past eradication efforts