Science

New Mexico, Living Landscapes 

New Mexico has an extremely high diversity of plant and animal groups. For example, New Mexico ranks second in number of species of native mammals (151) after California (161, not including marine mammals), which is 1.3 times larger in area. New Mexico's biological diversity is a result of its location, topographic and geologic diversity, and time, especially the last 700,000 years.

New Mexico is dominated by five major ecosystems: (1) alpine-conifer, (2) desert and basin, (3) juniper-scrub, (4) plains-mesa, and (5) riparian habitats such as cottonwood bosque and willow marshes. Each of these ecosystems brings a characteristic flora and fauna to our state. The geological history of New Mexico has created a patchwork of mountains, valleys and basins throughout the state. This variation in topography provides a range of habitats from Alpine to desert and everything in between, and the Rio Grande and other rivers in the state provide riparian habitats at varied elevations. Repeated alternations of cool-wet and warm-dry climates over the last 700,000 years have further increased the diversity by depositing more northern species on southern mountain tops during warm-dry climate intervals with no corridor available to move north.
 

Ecological Zones of New Mexico

Click on an area of the map or a text block to go to that zone's page.