Introduction: Ecosystem Research in a Human Context

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Ecology, Diversity, and Sustainability of the Middle Rio Grande Basin


USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, General Technical Report

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The Rio Grande/Rio Bravo Basin, which drains a 355,500 square mile area in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico (Fig. I), encompasses numerous land ownership boundaries, vegetation types, desert and woodland ecotones and edges, and urban and rural cultures, forming a complex array of interactive ecological systems. Historically known as the Southwest's "River of Life," the Rio Grande has lately become a subject of controversy over water resources and biological diversity. It earned the name in 1993 of "The Most Endangered River in North America" as proposed by the environmental organization American Rivers, Inc. Not only does the river form a geopolitical border between an industrialized country and a developing one, but human dependency on its waters, lands, and biotic resources reflects the traditions, economies, and social values of Hispanic, Anglo, and American Indian cultures. Sustainability of the Rio Grande's socioeconomic and ecological systems is a goal that has united diverse institutions, agencies, scientists, and private groups throughout the Southwest. This has resulted in numerous partnerships and initiatives designed to conserve the river and its way of life.

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