U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Date of this Version



Published in Conservation Biology (2009) 23:4 1060-1061. DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2009.01279.x


California’s deserts are characterized by meager rainfall and, consequently, scattered sources of permanent surface water, extreme seasonal and diurnal fluctuations in temperature, diverse landforms, tortured geologic complexity, and myriad biogeochemical interactions. Together these factors support an often unappreciated, yet astonishingly singular and productive, biota. Environmental gradients in deserts are at once subtle and complex, or what author Bruce Pavlik in The California Deserts: an Ecological Rediscovery artfully terms a “conspiracy of extremes.” There have been numerous books written on the natural history of the Earth’s various bioregions, including deserts; however, it is rare that such works have successfully woven ecological and cultural elements together to produce provocative and compelling scientific prose. Pavlik has skillfully accomplished this task by creating an eloquent and timely account of an underappreciated and threatened California ecosystem.