Paul C. Marsh, Editor

Proceedings of a Special Symposium

Held During the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Desert Fishes Council

Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, U.S.A.

18-20 November 1983


Cuatro Ciénegas (Four Marshes) is a small (less than 1,500 km2), intermontane valley in the eastern edge of the Sierra Madre Oriental in Coahuila, northern México. Climate of this desert region is extremely arid, with average annual precipitation less than 200 mm; air temperatures range locally from below 0 degrees C in winter to greater than 44 degrees C in summer. The landscape includes the basin floor near 740 m MSL; surrounding mountains rising to more than 3,000 m; interdigitating bajadas, canyons, and alluvial fans; dune fields; and diverse aquatic and semi-aquatic habitats including springs, marshes, rivers, lakes, playas and canals. Inhabiting this variety of terrestrial and mesic habitats is a rich biota characterized by high levels of endemism. Singularity and fragility of Cuatro Ciénegas ecosystems are the focus of papers in these proceedings.

The purpose of the symposium was to gather together scientists who have worked in Cuatro Ciénegas to discuss the changing character of this area and the future of its unique habitats and biota. It is an opinion of many biologists both in México and the United States that Cuatro Ciénegas is one of the most important natural areas in North America, and that its resources are being or could soon be lost to development. Contents of these proceedings summarize and update research on plants and animals of Cuatro Ciénegas to emphasize needs to preserve this outstanding ecosystem.

Scientific presentations such as these proceedings hopefully will become the basis for popularized accounts, renditions which enjoy a far more general distribution. In this way, the public, who voice their concerns to planners and decision-makers, may become informed and involved, and it is these latter individuals who will shape the future of development in the Cuatro Ciénegas region. Controlled resource use with a commitment to preservation, or unlimited utilization accompanied by irretrievable environmental damage will be political decisions, hopefully based on firm biological data. Thus, conservationists should strive to make the information presented here available to the widest possible audience. It is only through the wise use of knowledge such as this that unique features of Cuatro Ciénegas ecosystems can be understood and preserved for future generations.

This volume represents contributions and efforts of many individuals who deserve special thanks. E. P. Pister, Desert Fishes Council, enabled the symposium to be conducted as part of the DFC annual meeting. Original manuscripts were critically reviewed by T. E. Bowman, J. Henrickson, M. C. Johnston, J. J. Landye, A. Metcalf, W. L. Minckley, W. Ponder, N. J. Scott, Jr., R. G. Webb, T. Wendt and J. E. Williams. Abstract translations were by S. Contreras-Balderas, D.A. Hendrickson, and D. Papoulias Weisman. Sara J. Frischknecht prepared final typescripts. Janice E. Bowers facilitated publication by the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science and generously applied her editorial talents toward final preparation of manuscripts. Publication funds were from the Office of Endangered Species, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Center for Environmental Studies, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona.

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