Great Basin Desert

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For the list of valleys with Salt Desert and Tonopah Playa ecoregions, see Central Basin and Range ecoregion. For other deserts, see List of North American deserts.
Great Basin Desert
The Great Basin Province has desert areas within the northern area of the Great Basin.
Country United States
Part of North American Desert ecoregion [not in citation given][2]
Borders on Colorado Plateau (east)
Mojave Desert (south)
Parts Great Basin National Park[1]
Area 39,505 sq mi (102,317 km2) [citation needed]
Wheeler Peak is the highest point in Nevada's Great Basin Desert, rising from above the Spring Valley, foreground.

The Great Basin Desert is the largest US desert[citation needed] and covers 190,000 square miles (490,000 km2). It is bordered by the Sierra Nevada Range on the west and the Rocky Mountains on the east, the Columbia Plateau to the north and the Mojave and Sonoran deserts to the south. The Great Basin Desert, unlike the Mojave or Sonora deserts, characteristically "lacks creosote bush" as defined by J. Robert Macey in a 1986 report distinguishing between "Great Basin scrub desert" and "creosote bush desert."[3] Rainfall within the Great Basin Desert region varies from seven to twelve inches per year. The Great Basin Desert includes several arid basins lacking Larrea tridentata (chaparral) such as the "Chalfant, Hammil, Benton, and Queen valleys," as well as all but the southeast portion of the Owens Valley. Conversely, the "Panamint, Saline, and Eureka valleys" have creosote bush, unlike the Deep Springs Valley which includes part of the Great Basin scrub desert.[3]

The Great Basin Desert is a cold desert caused by the rain shadow effect from the Sierra Nevada to the west.[1] The predominant flora are "continuous shadscale and…sagebrush."[4]

The ecotone demarcating the north of the Mojave Desert is the edge of creosote bush habitat and is also the south demarcation of the Great Basin shrub steppe and Central Basin and Range ecoregions.[3] The ecotone is established by elevation increase, temperature decrease at higher elevations, and rainfall (less rain shadow at higher latitudes).[3]

See also[edit]

Great Basin National Park


  1. ^ a b National Park Service, Great Basin National Park
  2. ^ tbd. "Ecoregions of North America". USGS Western Ecology Division. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  3. ^ a b c d Macey, J. Robert (May 28, 1986). The Biogeography of a Herpetofaunal Transition Between the Great Basin and Mojave Deserts (PDF) (Report). Retrieved 2011-11-22. Banta & Tanner (1964) felt that the Great Basin Desert [sic] deserved recognition…and defined it…as the interior drainage lying between the Sierra Nevada and the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. For the purpose of this study, I am defining the Great Basin Desert as the high elevation desert that lacks Creosote Bush. --versus the region(s) with <10 in (250 mm) annual precipitation. NOTE: The term "Great Basin Desert" does not appear in the 1964 Great Basin report by Banta and Tanner:
  4. ^ Trimble, Stephen (1999). The Sagebrush Ocean: A Natural History of the Great Basin. ISBN 0-87417-343-4. Retrieved 2010-01-13.