Plants and Animals of the Middle Rio Grande Valley
The river and its floodplain support a variety of plants and animals. In addition to the Rio Grande cottonwoods, native woody plants along the Middle Rio Grande include:
Goodding and peachleaf willows (Salix gooddingii and Salix amygdaloides)
New Mexico olive (Forestiera neomexicana)
Coyote willow (Salix exigua)
False indigo (Amorpha fruticosa)
Anderson wolfberry (Lycium andersonii)
Seepwillow (Baccharis glutinosa)
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Various species of grasses, forbs and aquatic plants were once present.
New Mexico, as a state, supports one of North America's most diversified faunas, resulting from its diversity of landforms, elevation, vegetation and climatic history. This was likely reflected in a wealth of animal species in the Middle Rio Grande Valley, although no documented descriptions exist of aquatic or terrestrial animals prior to the arrival of Europeans. Most of the terrestrial animal species that currently use the valley were present before the arrival of Coronado in 1540. Others, including the jaguar, gray wolf and grizzly, were occasional visitors to the reparation corridor.
Throughout the arid Southwest, riparian areas support a greater number and variety of vertebrate species than surrounding uplands. Amphibians require aquatic habitats for at least part of their life cycles, thus conditions in the valley were once ideal for these animals. At least nine species of native amphibians, including many reptiles, use the bosque. The Middle Rio Grande Valley supports at least three turtle species, nine lizard species and 13 snake species. Early documentation of birds suggests a great variety of species present, as both permanent residents and seasonal visitors. One recent study revealed over 270 species of birds in the Rio Grande riparian habitats; 85 to 95 of these species were probably breading in the valley. There are over 60 species of mammals in the bosque, most of which are rodents; 11 species of bats use the valley. In addition, although often overlooked and poorly studied, the terrestrial invertebrates (isopods, spiders, insects, etc.) of the Middle Rio Grande Valley far exceed the vertebrates in numbers of species and individuals. The river itself historically supported between 17 and 27 species of native fish, as well as a huge variety of aquatic invertebrates.