Ecosystem services estimates have not been published for some biomes, notably desert ecosystems. The Chihuahuan bioregion is the largest desert in North America, has high biodiversity, is relatively intact, and has considerable cultural significance for parts of Mexico and the United States. We calculated the ecosystem services values for the Big Bend region of the Chihuahuan Desert in southwest Texas, USA. Big Bend has low levels of development and is a relatively unmodified and functioning ecosystem, making it a good representative landscape to study desert ecosystem services.
We found that this region averaged $550 (2015 USD) per hectare with raw materials, climate regulation, and cultural services contributing the most monetary value. This value is markedly lower than other terrestrial biomes, which was not necessarily surprising considering deserts are low productivity environments. However, given the size of the Chihuahuan Desert, the overall ecosystem services value would be sizeable. The Chihuahuan Desert is facing numerous threats, most notably energy development and overuse of natural resources, which is probably negatively impacting ecosystem services today. Projected growth in oil and gas drilling and wind energy could further degrade the vital services provided by this region. The low ecosystem services value also indicates that the widespread desertification occurring globally is causing large decreases in ecosystem services across many landscapes.