Sonoran Desert

Sonoran Desert

The Sonoran Desert (sometimes called the Gila Desert after the Gila River or the Low Desert in opposition to the higher Mojave Desert) is a North American desert which straddles part of the United States-Mexico border and covers large parts of the U.S. states of Arizona and California and the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California. It is one of the largest and hottest deserts in North America, with an area of 311,000 km² (120,000 mi² ). The desert contains a variety of unique plants and animals, such as the saguaro cactus. On January 17, 2001, 2,008 km² (496,337 acres) of the Sonoran Desert was set aside as the Sonoran Desert National Monument for the purpose of enhancing resource protection. [ [ Sonoran Desert National Monument] , Bureau of Land Management, U. S. Department of the Interior. Accessed on line October 21, 2007.]


The Sonoran Desert wraps around the northern end of the Gulf of California, from northeastern Baja California through southeastern California and southwestern Arizona to western Sonora. It is bounded on the west by the Peninsular Ranges, which separate it from the California chaparral and woodlands and Baja California desert ecoregions of the Pacific slope. To the north, the Sonoran Desert transitions to the cold-winter Mojave, Great Basin, and Colorado Plateau deserts. To the east, the deserts transition to the coniferous Arizona Mountains forests and Sierra Madre Occidental forests at higher elevations. The Sonoran-Sinaloan transition subtropical dry forest marks the transition from the Sonoran Desert to the tropical dry forests of Sinaloa.

The desert's sub-regions include the Colorado Desert and Yuma Desert. In the 1951 publication, "Vegetation of the Sonoran Desert", Forrest Shreve divided the Sonoran Desert into seven regions according to characteristic vegetation: Lower Colorado Valley, Arizona Upland, Plains of Sonora, Foothills of Sonora, Central Gulf Coast, Vizcaino Region, and Magdalena Region. (see "An Overview of the Sonoran Desert", external link below). Many ecologists now consider Shreve's Vizcaino and Magdalena regions, which lie on the western side of the Baja California Peninsula, to be a separate ecoregion, the Baja California desert. The PBS series Reading Rainbow shot its sixty-second episode "Desert Giant: The World of the Saguaro Cactus" here on March 27,1990. This book by Barbara Bash was narrated by Philip Bosco.


The Sonoran Desert includes 60 mammal species, 350 bird species, 20 amphibian species, 100+ reptile species, 30 native fish species, and more than 2000 native plant species. The Sonoran Desert is considered the wettest desert in the world, receiving up to convert|15|in|mm per year in some locations. [ [ Sonoran Desert] "Encyclopædia Britannica" Online]


Many plants not only survive the harsh conditions of the Sonoran Desert, but they actually thrive. Many have evolved to have specialized adaptations to the desert climate. The Sonoran Desert includes such plants from the agave family, palm family, cactus family, legume family, and many others. This desert is the only place in the world where the famous saguaro cactus grows in the wild.


The desert is home to seventeen aboriginal American cultures.

The largest city in the Sonoran Desert is Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A. This metropolitan area in central Arizona is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the United States, with a population of 4 million. [ Table 1: Annual Estimates of the Population of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2006 (CBSA-EST2006-01)] , United States Census Bureau, 2007-04-05. Accessed 2007-09-11.] In the North Phoenix area, desert is losing ground to development at a rate of approximately 4,000 m2 (1 acre ) per hour. [ [ Make No Small Plans] , Adelheid Fischer, "ASU Research" magazine. Accessed on line October 15, 2007.] The next largest cities are Tucson, in southern Arizona, U.S.A., with a metro area population of around 900,000, and Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, whose municipality also has a population of around 900,000. The municipality of Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico has a population of around 700,000. [ [ Principales resultados por localidad 2005] , Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática (Mexico). Accessed on line October 15, 2007.] [ [ Population Projections] , state government of Baja California, Mexico. Accessed on line October 15, 2007.]


See also

*List of deserts by area
*List of plants by common name (Sonoran Desert)
*Sonoran Desert National Monument
*Spanish missions in the Sonoran Desert
*List of Sonoran Desert birds (Arizona)
*Yuma Desert

External links

* [ Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum] :* [ Sonoran Desert and its subdivisions] , with map and photos
* [ Timeline of the Sonoran desert]
* [ "An Overview of the Sonoran Desert", by William G. McGinnies]
* [ The Sonoran Desert Naturalist]
* [ Very short overview of Sonoran Desert Geology]
* [ Map of the Sonoran Desert]
* [ Sonoran desert (World Wildlife Fund)]
* [ Sonoran Desert images at] ( [ slow modem version] )

Links to parks and recreational areas within the Sonoran Desert

* [ Saguaro National Park Page]
* [ South Mountain Park / Preserve]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Sonoran Desert — Arid region, western North America. Covering 120,000 sq mi (310,000 sq km), the Sonoran Desert is located in southwestern Arizona and southeastern California, U.S., and northern Baja California and western Sonora state, Mex. The desert s… …   Universalium

  • Sonoran Desert — Baboquivari Gipfel in der Sonora Wüste Sonora Wüste in Arizona Die Sonora Wüste ist mit einer Fläche von ca 320.000 km² eine der größten sowie eine der vielseitigsten und artenreichsten …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Sonoran Desert — Sp Sonòros dykumà Ap Sonoran Desert L JAV (Arizonos, Kalifornijos v jos) ir Meksikoje (Sonoros, Žem. Kalifornijos v jos); nac. gamtos parkas JAV …   Pasaulio vietovardžiai. Internetinė duomenų bazė

  • Sonoran Desert — noun a desert in southwestern Arizona • Instance Hypernyms: ↑desert • Part Holonyms: ↑Arizona, ↑Grand Canyon State, ↑AZ …   Useful english dictionary

  • Sonoran Desert — geographical name desert SW United States & NW Mexico in S Arizona, SE California, & N Sonora …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Sonoran Desert — large desert in North America (situated in Arizona, California and Mexico) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Sonoran Desert National Monument — Blühende Wüste im National Monument …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Sonoran Desert National Monument — Infobox protected area | name = Sonoran Desert National Monument iucn category = III caption = locator x = 50 locator y = 114 location = Maricopa County Pinal County, Arizona, USA nearest city = Phoenix, AZ lat degrees = 33 lat minutes = 0 lat… …   Wikipedia

  • Sonoran desert toad — noun A medium sized green toad lives in a desert …   Wiktionary

  • List of Sonoran Desert birds (Arizona) — The following birdspecies are endemic to the Sonoran Desert, and related areas. They are retrieved from the List of Arizona SW birds (Yuma County, Arizona), though not exclusively.outhwest regionThe listed birds are based on the southern section… …   Wikipedia

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