Bosque on the Rio Grande near Bernalillo, New Mexico
NASA image of Albuquerque, New Mexico showing the green bosque area surrounding the Rio Grande
Grus Canadensis]] captured in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.
Ballooning through the bosque near the Rio Grande.

A bosque (/ˈbsk/ BOHSS-kay)[1][2] is a type of gallery forest habitat found along the riparian flood plains of streams, river banks, and lakes. It derives its name from the Spanish word for 'forest', pronounced [ˈboske].


In the predominantly arid or semi-arid southwestern United States, a bosque is an oasis-like ribbon of green forest, often canopied, that only exists near rivers, streams, or other water courses. The most notable bosque is the 300-mile (500 km)-long forest ecosystem along the valley of the middle Rio Grande in New Mexico that extends from Santa Fe, through Albuquerque and south to El Paso, Texas.[3] One of the most famous and ecologically intact sections of the bosque is included in the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, which is located south of San Antonio, NM.[4] Another bosque can be found in Costa Rica, a beautiful wildlife refuge named Bosque Alegre.[5]

View of the middle Rio Grande bosque near Albuquerque, New Mexico from hot air balloon.

Middle Rio Grande bosque

There are various refuges, parks, and trails for visitors, such as the Paseo Del Bosque trail in Albuquerque, New Mexico.[6]

Flora and fauna

As a desert riparian forest, the middle Rio Grande bosque has a characteristic variety of flora and fauna.[7] Common trees in the bosque habitat include mesquite, cottonwood, desert willow, and desert olive.[8] Because there is often only a single canopy layer and because the tree species found in the bosque are generally deciduous, a wide variety of shrubs, grasses, and other understory vegetation is also supported. Desert hackberry, blue palo verde, graythorn (Condalia lycioides), Mexican elder (Sambucus mexicana), virgin's bower, and Indian root all flourish in the bosque. The habitat also supports a large variety of lichens. For a semi-arid region, there is extraordinary biodiversity at the interface of the bosque and surrounding desert ecosystems. Certain subsets of vegetative association are defined within the Kuchler scheme, including the Mesquite Bosque. In 2017, 150 different species of flora (trees, shrubs, forbs, and grasses) were documented in Albuquerque's Bosque (New Mexico, United States).[9]

The bosque is an important stopover for a variety of migratory birds, such as ducks, geese, egrets, herons, and sandhill cranes. Year-round avian residents include Red-tailed hawks, Cooper's hawks, American kestrels, hummingbirds, owls, woodpeckers, and the southwestern willow flycatcher. Over 270 species of birds can be found in Albuquerque's Bosque (New Mexico, United States).[10] Aquatic fauna of the bosque include the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow. Mammalian residents include desert cottontail, white-footed mouse, North American porcupine, North American beaver, long-tailed weasel, common raccoon, coyote, mountain lions, and bobcats. Cottonwood trees serve as shelter to a variety of animals.[11] However, a September 2020 report by the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program (BEMP) predicted that cottonwood trees in the middle Rio Grande bosque will be disproportionately impacted as climate change affects groundwater depth and as air temperatures rise. The report separately concluded that invasive plant species were not sensitive to such changes in groundwater, suggesting that the plant structure and animal habitats of the middle Rio Grande bosque will change dramatically as climate changes.[12]


Even though the earliest inhabitants began to settle around the bosque about 15,000 years ago, they caused only minor ecosystem changes. It was not until rapid population growth and when inhabitants started creating water diversions for farming purposes that the bosque started to be manipulated, and change was noted in the ecosystem.[13]


Maintaining the ecosystem and habitat of the bosque is a difficult and ongoing concern for many. The creation of water diversions such as levees, ditches, irrigation canals, etc has caused irreparable damage, causing floodplains to dry and water levels to drop. Thus creating a ripple effect, many different types of native plant species, wildlife, and amphibians have died off or relocated. The drying out waters and loss of wetlands create a land that is susceptible to fires destroying more habitation areas.[13]

There are ongoing efforts to undo damage to the bosque ecosystem caused by human development, fires, and invasive species in the 20th century. Where possible, levees and other flood control devices along the Rio Grande are being removed, to allow the river to undergo its natural cycle.[14] However, in June 2023, the Army Corps of Engineers-Albuquerque District and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District signed a design agreement aiming for the reconstruction of multiple levees along the Rio Grande river between Albuquerque and Belen as part of the Middle Rio Grande, Bernalillo to Belen project, which aims to minimize flood damage along the river.[15] To help with the regrowth and maintenance of the bosque, new trees are planted by The Open Space Division.[7]

Since 1996, the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program (BEMP) of the University of New Mexico has worked with local schools on habitat restoration and ecological monitoring within the bosque, as well as raising awareness of the ecological importance of this habitat through educational outreach initiatives.[16][17] BEMP receives funding from a number of sources, including the federal government.[18] As of 2016, the program maintained thirty permanent sites throughout the middle Rio Grande bosque.[17]

See also


  1. ^ "Chapter 2: Bosque Background". New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science. October 5, 2017. Retrieved April 12, 2021.
  2. ^ Holmes, Pat (October 5, 2017). "New Mexico's most mispronounced places, 'This is an excerpt from a New Mexico Pronunciation Guide, as compiled by the Associated Press.'". KOAT. Retrieved April 12, 2021.
  3. ^ (CERM), Center for Environmental Research & Management. "Rio Bosque Wetlands Park". Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  4. ^ "General Map and Tour Loop Map Friends of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico, NWR, National Wildlife Refuge, Birding, New Mexico Wildlife, NM birds, bird checklists, sandhill crane migration, sandhill cranes, light geese, flyout, fly in, bosque". Retrieved 2023-12-14.
  5. ^ "Bienvenidos al Refugio de Vida Silvestre Bosque Alegre | Visit Costa Rica | The official site about tourism in Costa Rica". Retrieved 2023-12-14.
  6. ^ "Paseo del Bosque Trail". City of Albuquerque. Retrieved 2023-12-14.
  7. ^ a b Wilson, Ruth A. (June 1, 2012). "Beauty of the Bosque". American Forests. 118: 40.
  8. ^ Eichhorst, Kim D. (June 2012). Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program (BEMP) Comprehensive Report: 1997-2009 (PDF) (Report). University of New Mexico. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  9. ^ "Appendix G: Plants" (PDF). New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. October 5, 2017. Retrieved February 20, 2023.
  10. ^ "Chapter 2: Bosque Background". New Mexico Natural History Museum. October 5, 2017. Retrieved February 20, 2023.
  11. ^ Wilson, Ruth A. (June 1, 2012). "Beauty of the Bosque". American Forests: 40 – via Science Reference Center.
  12. ^ Eichhorst, Kim D (2020-09-04). "Middle Rio Grande riparian plant cover sensitivity to variability in groundwater depth collected by the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program". Environmental Data Initiative. doi:10.6073/pasta/b0bb59fd39e327b2452be059cc6a8440 – via NSF Public Access Repository.
  13. ^ a b "Chapter 2: Bosque Background | New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science". Retrieved 2023-12-14.
  14. ^ Hanscom, Greg (2001-11-19). "Bringing back the bosque: Pueblo tribes take the lead in restoring the Rio Grande's riverside forest". High Country News. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  15. ^ Graff, Justin (June 16, 2023). "USACE's Albuquerque District signs design agreement for Middle Rio Grande flood protection". Army Corps of Engineers. Retrieved 2023-10-02.
  16. ^ "History of BEMP". Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  17. ^ a b Converse, Rowan; Shaw, Dan; Eichhorst, Kim; Leinhart, May (2016). "Bringing citizen monitoring into land management: a case study of the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program". Journal of Science Communication. 16 (3) – via Gale Academic OneFile.
  18. ^ "Federal Grant: Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program". Indian eGov Newswire. SyndiGate Media Inc. September 5, 2018. Retrieved October 6, 2023.