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Upper Gila Mountains

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NameColor on MapCEC Code*
Arizona/New Mexico Mountains13.1.1

* This code refers to the CEC's Level 3 ecoregion codes for North America, see here.

About the Upper Gila Mountains

The Upper Gila Mountains are a Level II ecoregion located almost entirely in central Arizona and New Mexico, with a tiny portion barely stretching into West Texas. The largest contiguous chunk of this region is in central Arizona and western New Mexico, whereas the other parts in northern and Eastern New Mexico are geographically isolated. This region is considered to be the northernmost part of the Temperate Sierras.

This region is mostly semiarid, although higher elevations receive enough rainfall to support forests, and streams create significant wetter microclimates on isolated sites throughout the region. Elevations tend to range from 4,500-10,000 feet (1,370-3,000m). The cover ranges from desert-like shrublands at the lowest elevations, through grasslands at mid-elevations, to coniferous forests at the highest elevations. Small, localized hardwood forests can be found on moister, low-elevation sites along streams and canyons. Limestone, shale and sandstone make up the underlying rock; the easily-erodable limestone leads to springs feeding oasis-like growth in semi-arid regions of the lower elevations.

The low elevations of this region share many plants in common with lower-lying desert areas, with the beginnings of this region consisting of lusher growth of many of the same plant species found in the desert. Higher elevations bring more species found in mountainous regions farther north and south, although the isolated nature of this higher-elevation region has resulted in a high portion of endemic species.

This region is used for ranching, forestry, mining, and recreation. There are also some Native American tribal lands. Grazing has probably reduced the dominance of grasslands at lower elevations, converting them to more shrublands. The main environmental threats in this region are logging and overgrazing, although pollution and diversion of river waters also pose significant threats.

This region is mostly bordered by more arid regions at lower elevations. To the north it borders the Cold Deserts, and to the southwest and southeast, the Warm Deserts. A small portion of this region also borders the Western Sierra Madre Piedmont to the south, and the easternmost part borders the South Central Semi-Arid Prairies, a region slightly less arid than the inland cold deserts.