The mixed grass and shrub vegetation known to scientists as desert grassland is common to the basins and valleys that skirt the mountain ranges throughout southwestern North America, extending from Arizona, New Mexico and Texas down through thirteen Mexican states. This variegated ground cover is crucial to life in an arid environment. The Desert Grassland offers the most comprehensive study to date of these flora and the rich biotic communities they support.Leading experts in geography, biology, botany, zoology, and geoscience present new research on the desert grassland and review a vast amount of earlier work. They reveal that present-day grasses once grew in the ice-age forests that existed in these areas before the climate dried and the trees vanished and how the intensity and frequency of fire can influence the plant and animal species of the grassland. They also document how the influence of humans--from Amerindians to contemporary ranchers, public land managers, and real estate developers--has changed the relative abundance of woody and herbaceous species and how the introduction of new plants and domesticated animals to the area has also affected biodiversity. The book concludes with a review of the attempts, both failed and successful, to reestablish plants in desert grasslands affected by overgrazing, drought, and farm abandonment.Meticulously researched and copiously illustrated, The Desert Grassland is a major contribution to ecological literature. For advanced lay readers as well as students and scholars of history, geography, and ecology, it will be a standard reference work for years to come.