Texas Tech University

Biodiversity of the Llano Estacado


A new permanent exhibit will open at the museum in 2020. Biodiversity of the Llano Estacado features an in depth look at this living landscape and explores the importance of biodiversity and the seven major habitats which supports a variety of wildlife. Join us in 2020 for this fascinating and significant addition to the museum.

What is the Llano Estacado?

Encompassing parts of eastern New Mexico and much of northwestern Texas, the Llano Estacado is one of the largest plateaus (also often referred to as a mesa or tableland) on the North American continent- 50,000 square miles or slightly larger than the state of Indiana.

The Llano Estacado now supports a population of 1.2 million people and is a world leader in agriculture and energy production. But with population growth has come a decline in water availability and a loss of habitat for wildlife.

What is biodiversity and why is it important?

Biodiversity - a shortened term for biological diversity - is the variety of life forms within a local habitat, broader ecosystem, and worldwide.

The greater diversity of species ensures the maintenance, sustainability, and natural resilience from disease and climate extremes of all ecosystems. All life forms of earth—including humans—depend on these complex ecosystems to sustain life.

Biodiversity is vital for human survival as biological resources provide food, energy, sources of and models for medicines, and help ensure soil fertility. Vegetation protects soils from wind and water erosions. Together biodiversity ensures that nutrients are recycled into the environment and healthy ecosystems can help to regulate the chemistry of the Earth's water supplies and atmosphere.

Early European explorers and settlers thought the Llano Estacado was bland and monotonous. Yet it has a variety of habitats, both natural and human-made. The major ones are:

  1.  Short- and mixed-grass prairies
  2.  Canyons, breaks, and draws
  3.  Playas
  4.  Salinas
  5.  Sand dunes and sand hills
  6.  Agricultural lands, and
  7.  Urban areas.

These habitats generally do not have precise borders, but instead merge into each other, or change in shape and size with changing environmental conditions or human impacts.

Each of these habitats supports a variety of wildlife. Some animals and plants are almost exclusively restricted to a certain habitat, but most occur in and use several.