Cover Image

Larger ImageView Larger

The California Deserts

An Ecological Rediscovery

Bruce M. Pavlik (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 384 pages
ISBN: 9780520251458
July 2008
$34.95, £27.95
This highly readable, spectacularly illustrated compendium is an ecological journey into a wondrous land of extremes. The California Deserts explores the remarkable diversity of life in this harsh yet fragile quarter of the Golden State. In a rich narrative, it illuminates how that diversity, created by drought and heat, has evolved with climate change since the Ice Ages. Along the way, we find there is much to learn from each desert species— whether it is a cactus, pupfish, tortoise, or bighorn sheep—about adaptation to a warming, arid world. The book tells of human adaptation as well, and is underscored by a deep appreciation for the intimate knowledge acquired by native people during their 12,000-year desert experience. In this sense, the book is a journey of rediscovery, as it reflects on the ways that knowledge has been reclaimed and amplified by new discoveries. The book also takes the measure of the ecological condition of these deserts today, presenting issues of conservation, management, and restoration. With its many sidebars, photographs, and featured topics, The California Deserts provides a unique introduction to places of remarkable and often unexpected beauty.


Coming to Explore
Coming to Conquer
Coming to Understand
Coming to Cherish

Geography of a Bioregion

Ecosystem Operations in the Desert Bioregion
Origins of the Desert Bioregion

Biological Diversity: The Richness of Species
Evolving with Drought
Drought-Susceptible Species
Drought-Avoiding Species
Drought-Tolerant Species

Great Basin Communities
Mojave Communities
Sonoran Communities

Current Threats
Ecological Remedies
Weaving a New Basket

Art Credits
Bruce M. Pavlik, Professor of Biology at Mills College, is coauthor of Oaks of California and California's Changing Landscapes: The Diversity and Conservation of California Vegetation.
“Through the eloquent and skillful interweaving of cultural, scientific, and natural history themes, Pavlik and University of California Press have set a new standard for books on the ecology of natural bioregions.”—Conservation Biology
“Delightful book . . . . The California Deserts reads like a novel, unraveling mystery after mystery of these arid lands. . . . This is a ‘must read’ for any naturalist interested in California deserts, and it will likely set a new standard in what we should look for in ‘field guides.’”—Laurie J. Vitt Qtly Review Of Biology
“A wonderful resource for any naturalist, educator, or person that is eager to learn more about the diversity of the unique desert ecosystems of California.”—Keri McNew Botanical Rsrch Inst. Of Txs (Jbrit)
“Approachable and beautifully illustrated text that clearly lays out the complexities of the desert ecosystems of California and the problems that they face.”—Ecological Restoration
“Pavlik takes the reader on an ecological exploration of the arid regions of the Golden State. . . . . This volume not only gives the reader a sense of the past but also brings him or her up to speed on what is happening now and what the future may hold for California’s deserts. . . . Excellent.”—Aptos Times
“What a desert book should be like, written in such fashion that even if you have no interest in deserts whatsoever, you will still enjoy reading the book. Most desert writing is turgid. This book is not.”—Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar
“An interesting read.”—Joan S. Bolton Santa Maria Times
“To see the natural world through Bruce Pavlik's eyes is always a delight, for he is among the finest ecologists and nature writers in the West. But to explore with Bruce the range of California's deserts—their deep history and diversity—is a special treat, for we see them not as 'big empty' wastelands, but as elegant landscapes rich with relationships. Both human and other-than-human beings contribute to these relationships, and no one has told their stories as well as Pavlik has done.”—Gary Nabhan, author of Arab/American: Landscape, Culture, and Cuisine in Two Great Deserts

“A bewildering amount of biological and environmental lore has accumulated about our deserts. Bruce Pavlik's highly readable, beautifully illustrated book is a salutary antidote to confusion. It brings together the best current knowledge in a comprehensive form that makes a compelling story as well as a handy reference. Nobody who cares about California's deserts should be without it."—David Rains Wallace, author of Neptune's Ark, Beasts of Eden, and The Klamath Knot

“I've been waiting for a book like this, one that captures the very essence of the desert rather than simply cataloging and describing it. Bruce Pavlik is a consummate integrator and storyteller. He makes this 'rediscovery' of the desert as exciting as its initial discovery, proving that you can discover something only once, but you can rediscover it again and again.”—Jeff Lovich, Deputy Director, U.S. Geological Survey, Southwest Biological Science Center

Join UC Press

Members receive 20-40% discounts on book purchases. Find out more