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The Mojave Desert

July 28, 2020

The Book Shelf

For anyone interested in our local desert, the Mojave (mow-hah-vay, not mo-jave), or who wants to learn about it, this is a good book. I love this desert and spent many happy days-weeks-months exploring it, checking out the birds and flowers, clambering through canyons and across creosote bush flats, while avoiding as best I could the attacks of Jumping Cholla cacti, usually by myself and whatever beat-up car I then owned. This desert deserves to be better known and understood.

There was a long excerpt from the book in the Dec’18-Jan’19 issue of Natural History (from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City), which I really enjoyed, but cannot find a weblink to. So you’ll just have to find that issue or get the book. All the usual suspects carry it, including the Los Angeles Public Library. With this and a good map – I’m not sure I’d rely on GPS – (and food, water, hat, sunblock, etc. etc. etc.) you’ll be ready to hit the trail.

Here’s the blurb from the publishers, The University of Arizona Press.
[Chuck Almdale]


A Natural History of the Mojave Desert
Lawrence R. Walker and Frederick H. Landau
University of Arizona Press. 2018


The Mojave Desert has a rich natural history. Despite being sandwiched between the larger Great Basin and Sonoran Deserts, it has enough mountains, valleys, canyons, and playas for any eager explorer. Ancient and current waterways carve the bajadas and valley bottoms. This diverse topography gives rise to a multitude of habitats for plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else in the world.

A Natural History of the Mojave Desert explores how a combination of complex geology, varied geography, and changing climate has given rise to intriguing flora and fauna—including almost 3,000 plant species and about 380 terrestrial vertebrate animal species. Of these, one quarter of the plants and one sixth of the animals are endemic.

The authors, who, combined, have spent more than six decades living in and observing the Mojave Desert, offer a scientifically insightful and personally observed understanding of the desert. They invite readers to understand how the Mojave Desert looks, sounds, feels, tastes, and smells. They prompt us to understand how humans have lived in this desert where scant vegetation and water have challenged humans, past and present.

A Natural History of the Mojave Desert provides a lively and informed guide to understanding how life has adapted to the hidden riverbeds, huge salt flats, tiny wetlands, and windswept hills that characterize this iconic desert.


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