Biological diversity, referred to as biodiversity, is the variety and variability among living organisms and the environments in which they occur, and is recognized at genetic, species, ecosystem, and often landscape levels of organization. Biodiversity is linked to the persistent health and vigor of the biosphere, so that biodiversity is not only recognized as an indicator of the condition of the global environment, but also as a regulator of ecosystem functioning (Solbrig, 1991). Scale is an important feature of biodiversity and how species richness can be measured in complex ecosystems. A continuum of species richness exists across broad geographic gradients, along environmental gradients between communities within a landcape, and between micro-gradients or pattern diveristy that measures the change in composition between points within a community (Whittaker, 1977). Remote sensing and field census are the basic methods to collect, model, and map species richness across this array of ecological dimensions.

This map was derived by interpreting the spatial patterns of vegetation communities and their relationship to broad ecological patterns expressed on the Landsat TM mosaic of the Mojave desert. Although each individual polygon represents a relatively large area at this scale, much is also known about the primary, secondary and tertiary dominant species in each polygon. This map expresses the most general classification of the landscape to show general regional variation over the entire Mojave desert.

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