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Jornada Biosphere Reserve, United States of America

The Jornada has served as a field research laboratory since its establishment in 1912. The varied scientific activities on the range throughout this century have led to important discoveries about desert ecosystems that have been the basis for principles of land management that have application around the globe. This region is probably the most extensively studied desert on earth. 


Ecological Characteristics

Jornada Biosphere Reserve is one of three biosphere reserves representing the Chihuahuan Desert (among Big Bend Biosphere Reserve in western Texas and Mapimí Biosphere Reserve in Mexico). The area extends from the crest of the San Andres Mountains, which are dominated by shrub woodlands, to the Jornada Plains characterized by semi-desert grasslands. 

Twenty-two different soil types are present on the Jornada Plain. These soils have almost no humus or organic matter, and there is little change in texture between surface soil and subsoil. Lime content is high in all soil types. Through time, lime from the soil and from calcareous dust has leached downward and deposited at the depth to which rainfall normally penetrates, from a few inches to several feet. This zone of lime accumulation, or caliche layer, is often so thick and dense that penetration by water or roots is severely limited.


Socio-Economic Characteristics

All three biosphere reserves in the Chihuahuan Desert are located in areas traditionally dominated by a livestock raising economy. Today, they face a variety of resource management issues relating to the sustainable development in desert ecosystems. Problems are associated with grazing of livestock, air pollution, and water quality, poaching of plants and animals, and loss of habitats.

Jornada Biosphere Reserve, while in a rural area, is becoming more and more influenced by the urban economies of Las Cruces (New Mexico) and El Paso (Texas). It focuses on long-term experimental research directed toward range management and maintenance of healthy desert ecosystems.



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Last updated: June 2019