Skip Links

USGS - science for a changing world

Circular 1380

United States–Mexican Borderlands—Facing tomorrow’s challenges through USGS science

Edited by Randall G. Updike, Eugene G. Ellis, William R. Page, Melanie J. Parker, Jay B. Hestbeck, and William F. Horak

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (549 MB)Abstract

Along the nearly 3,200 kilometers (almost 2,000 miles) of the United States–Mexican border, in an area known as the Borderlands, we are witnessing the expression of the challenges of the 21st century. This circular identifies several challenge themes and issues associated with life and the environment in the Borderlands, listed below. The challenges are not one-sided; they do not originate in one country only to become problems for the other. The issues and concerns of each challenge theme flow in both directions across the border, and both nations feel their effects throughout the Borderlands and beyond. The clear message is that our two nations, the United States and Mexico, face the issues in these challenge themes together, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) understands it must work with its counterparts, partners, and customers in both countries.

Though the mission of the USGS is not to serve as land manager, law enforcer, or code regulator, its innovation and creativity and the scientific and technical depth of its capabilities can be directly applied to monitoring the conditions of the landscape. The ability of USGS scientists to critically analyze the monitored data in search of signals and trends, whether they lead to negative or positive results, allows us to reach significant conclusions—from providing factual conclusions to decisionmakers, to estimating how much of a natural resource exists in a particular locale, to predicting how a natural hazard phenomenon will unfold, to forecasting on a scale from hours to millennia how ecosystems will behave.

None of these challenge themes can be addressed strictly by one or two science disciplines; all require well-integrated, cross-discipline thinking, data collection, and analyses. The multidisciplinary science themes that have become the focus of the USGS mission parallel the major challenges in the border region between Mexico and the United States. Because of this multidisciplinary approach, the USGS possesses a unique set of capabilities that can address these challenges. The USGS can apply geographical, geospatial, biological, hydrological, and geological sciences to these complex issues and thereby provide insight into the area’s natural systems and their relation to human activity.

As we come to better understand the complexities of the components of these challenge themes, we discover that each part is inextricably intertwined with other overarching issues. Because of the complex interactions of the human, ecological, political, and economic exigencies associated with this area, the status of the Borderlands has become an ever-present concern for most American citizens and for Mexican and United States Federal, State, and local governments. This circular is intended to provide you—citizen, local decisionmaker, government leader, or private entrepreneur—an overview of what the USGS considers the current and future challenges in the United States–Mexican border region and examples of how the USGS can make a difference in understanding and addressing these issues.

First posted March 11, 2013

    The larger PDF for Circular 1380 is the complete report, combining all chapter files.

    To immediately access smaller PDFs of the individual chapters, use the links listed at the bottom of this webpage. It is recommended that users right-click and save the report to your desktop.

For additional information contact:
Regional Director, Southwest Region
U.S. Geological Survey
Box 25046, Mail Stop 911
Denver, CO 80225

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Updike, R.G., Ellis, E.G., Page, W.R., Parker, M.J., Hestbeck, J.B., and Horak, W.F., eds., 2013, United States–Mexican Borderlands—Facing tomorrow’s challenges through USGS science: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1380, 318 p., 1 pl.


Front Matter (14.1 MB)

Chapter 1. The United States–Mexican Border—A Land of Conflict and Opportunity (24.4 MB) By Randall G. Updike

Chapter 2. The Borderlands—A Region of Physical and Cultural Diversity (61.1 MB) By Jean W. Parcher, Diana M. Papoulias, Dennis G. Woodward, and Roger A. Durall

Chapter 3. Challenge Theme 1. Understanding and Preserving Ecological Resources (44.7 MB) By J. Bruce Moring, Diana M. Papoulias, and Charles van Riper III

Chapter 4. Challenge Theme 2. Assuring Water Availability and Quality in the 21st Century (46.9 MB) By James Callegary, Jeff Langman, Jim Leenhouts, and Peter Martin

Chapter 5. Challenge Theme 3. Protecting the Environment and Safeguarding Human Health (48.3 MB) By Diana M. Papoulias and Jean W. Parcher

Chapter 6. Challenge Theme 4. People in the Borderlands (68.2 MB) By Laura M. Norman, Rudy M. Shuster, and Jean W. Parcher

Chapter 7. Challenge Theme 5. Current and Future Needs of Energy and Mineral Resources in the Borderlands and the Effects of Their Development (50.5 MB) By Floyd Gray, William R. Page, Peter D. Warwick, and Martín Valencia-Moreno

Chapter 8. Challenge Theme 6. Natural Hazard Risks in the Borderlands (47.9 MB) By William R. Page, Jean W. Parcher, and Jim Stefanov

Chapter 9. Challenge Theme 7. Information Support for Management of Border Security and Environmental Protection (66.9 MB) By Jean W. Parcher and William R. Page

Chapter 10. The Borderlands and Climate Change (81.0 MB) By Joan Fitzpatrick, Floyd Gray, Russell Dubiel, Jeff Langman, J. Bruce Moring, Laura M. Norman, William R. Page, and Jean W. Parcher

Chapter 11. An Opportunity and an Imperative (16.3 MB) By Randall G. Updike and William R. Page

Chapter 12. References Cited (18.6 MB)

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Contact USGS
Page Last Modified: Wednesday, November 23, 2016, 12:32:09 PM