The area surrounding the United States–Mexican border is very physically and culturally diverse and cannot be generalized by any single description. To assist in an accurate appraisal and understanding of this remarkable region, the Borderlands team has divided it into eight subareas based on the watershed subareas of the U.S. Geological Survey Border Environmental Health Initiative (http://borderhealth.cr.usgs.gov) (fig. 2–1), the boundaries of which are defined primarily by surface-water drainage basins. The drainage basins directly adjacent to or crossing the international boundary were automatically included in the defined border region, as were those basins that contain unconsolidated aquifers that extend to or cross the international boundary. Also, “protected areas” adjacent to included basins were selectively added to the defined border region. Though some geographic features are entirely within the Borderlands, many features—deserts, mountain ranges, rivers, etc.— extend beyond the region boundaries but are still influential to Borderlands environments (fig. 2–2). In some cases, the authors of the following chapters have made fine adjustments to the Borderlands boundaries, and they have described those alterations where necessary. By describing and studying these subareas individually and comparing them to one another, we can emphasize the physical and cultural diversity that makes the Borderlands such an important geographic area.
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The Borderlands--a region of physical and cultural diversity: Chapter 2 in United States--Mexican Borderlands--facing tomorrow’s challenges through USGS science