by Scott A. Elias

Book Summary:

During the last ice age, the American Southwest was transformed from an arid landscape dominated by deserts to a very different landscape dominated by woodlands and forests. Recreating the vegetation, animal life, and archaeology of this region during the last 100,000 years, this guidebook describes the little-known ecological history of the Southwest, focusing on five national parks and monuments: Canyonlands, Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, and Big Bend. Scott Elias describes the climatic forces that changed the face of the Southwest during the last glaciation. Shifts in atmospheric circulation brought moisture to now-arid regions throughout the Southwest. A menagerie of large Pleistocene animals roamed these regions, leaving behind fascinating clues about their lives in a surprisingly abundant fossil record preserved in dry caves. Packrat middens preserve the record of Southwestern vegetation and insect life through the last 40,000 years. Most of the large mammals became extinct, just after human hunters appeared in the Southwest, about 11,000 years ago. Elias explores the mystery of this massive extinction event, and its possible causes. Along with its companion books on the ice-age history of national parks in Alaska and the Rocky Mountains, this book explains the kind of evidence used to reconstruct past environments and ecosystems, including evidence gathered from geology, paleontology, and archaeology. Elias introduces paleoecology - the interactions among ancient plants, animals, and environments - to hikers, tourists, and armchair travelers.

Travel/Natural History: 205 pp.; 27 b&w photographs, 55 maps and line drawings; 6 X 9 (152 X 229 mm) Paper: ISBN 1-56098-679-4 $16.95 Available: February, 1997

Orders in North and South America: Smithsonian Institution Press, P. O. Box 960, Herndon, VA 22070-0960; tel. 800-782-4612

To see a summary of my other books, click on one of the following titles:

Ice Age Environments of Alaskan National Parks

Ice Age Environments of National Parks in the Rocky Mountains

My book on Quaternary Insects and Their Environments

Quaternary Entomology Dispatch (a newsletter)

Other natural history titles offered by Smithsonian Institution Press

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This page, and all contents, are Copyright (C) 1994 by Scott A. Elias, Boulder, Colorado, USA.