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All About Desert Biomes

Deserts and xeric shrublands receive an annual average rainfall of ten inches (25 cms) or less, making them very dry. The desert biome...

Deserts and xeric shrublands receive an annual average rainfall of ten inches (25 cms) or less, making them very dry. The desert biome covers about 35% of the total land area of the world. The desert of Atacama in northern Chile is considered the driest part of Earth, with a 30-year annual average rainfall of only 0.005cm.

  • The area of the desert biome is increasing due to desertification caused by human activities.
  • Deserts and xeric shrublands can be found in tropical, subtropical, and temperate climate regions.
  • Desert soils are typically sandy or rocky and have low organic content.
  • Desert soils are often saline or alkaline in nature.
Desert Ecosystem -Places
The Australian Deserts
  • The Australian deserts are a collection of extremely dry eco-regions in Australia’s interior.
  • They are sparsely populated, with a population density of less than one person per square kilometer on average.
  • Australian deserts have the lowest human population of any desert on the planet.
The Afrotropic Deserts
  • These desert biomes are found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • It also includes the Arabian Peninsula’s southern reaches.
  • Humans exert significant strain on the ecosystem, particularly in Madagascar and the Horn of Africa.
The Indo-Malay Region
  • The Indus Valley and the Thar are two hot lowlands that make up the Indo-Malay area.
  • In terms of human imprint, these deserts rank first in the globe.
  • It is also referred to as the Oriental realm.
The Neotropic Deserts
  • South America, Central America, the Caribbean islands, and southern North America are all part of this area.
  • Those in South America occupy approximately 684 million square miles.
  • Only 6% of the overall land is protected, though.
The Nearctic Deserts
  • In North America, these deserts cover an estimated 1.04 million square miles.
  • Phoenix’s average population is relatively high due to the expansion of urban companies in the United States.
The Palearctic Domain
  • This domain contains the world’s largest collection of desserts, spanning 9.9 million square miles.
  • That’s around 63 percent of all deserts on the planet.
  • The extreme dryness and inaccessibility of these deserts have made them famous.
  • The Sahara desert in Africa occupies around 9.9 square miles, or nearly 10% of the African continent.
  • The deserts in the Central region, on the other hand, are marked by folded mountains, significant landscape variety, and enclosed basins.
  • Due to the availability of little moisture in the air to capture and hold on to the heat emanating from the high temperatures during the day, desert nights are typically cold.
  • A combination of extreme temperature fluctuations and incredibly low levels of water makes the desert biome a very harsh land mass to live in.
  • Temperatures are so extreme during the day because there is very little moisture in the atmosphere to block out the sun’s rays
  • This means that the sun’s energy is absorbed on the ground surface.
  • The ground surface then heats up the surrounding air.
  • When night falls, the exact opposite happens.
  • The heated ground, plus the hot air, radiates the heat absorbed during the day back to the atmosphere, triggering rapid drop in temperatures.
  • Temperatures at night can plummet to zero degrees Celsius.
  • Seasonal climate varies considerably in desert biomes.
  • In the summer months, temperature ranges between 30 to 49 degrees Celsius. Little or zero precipitation occurs in the summer.
  • Also, the rate of evaporation typically overtakes precipitation.
  • In the winter months, temperatures range between 10 to 20 degrees Celsius. A lot of the precipitation takes place during these summer months.
  • Precipitation in hot and dry deserts is a lot different from precipitation in cold deserts.
  • Hot and cold deserts typically receive very little rainfall, an average of 15 cm per year.
  • Cold deserts, on the other hand, experience a lot of snow and receive rain in spring, an average of 15-26 cm, to be exact.
Animal Life
  • In spite of the harsh climatic conditions in the desert biome, many animals live here.
  • These animals have developed unique adaptations to help them keep cool and use less water.
  • For example, a recognizable desert animal like the Camel can get by for days without food and water due to the fat stored in its hump. It also has thick fur and underwool to protect it from the harshest of winter. Its nostrils are able to be closed to keep out blowing sand.A camel has two rows of eyelashes to shield it eyes from the sun and blowing winds and broad hooves to prevent it from sinking in the sand.
  • Foxes survive here due to their burrowing and nocturnal lifestyles. This burrowing ensures they escape the intense heat during the day. They also have large ears to aid in the dissipation of excess body heat during hot days. Their thick, sandy fur helps protect them from the cold nights in the desert. The thick, sandy fur also helps reflect heat and for camouflage.
  • Animals in desert biomes have also developed adaptations such as panting to minimize heat, seasonal migration, and long periods of dormancy that lasts until triggered by moisture and temperature conditions.
  • Other animals in the desert biome include Bobcats, Coyotes, Javelina, Desert Tortoise, Cactus Wren, Desert Kangaroo Rat, Sonoran Desert Toad, Thorny Devil, Desert Bighorn Ship, Armadillo Lizard, Sonoran Pronghorn Antelope, and so on.
Natural Vegetation
  • The very little rainfall experienced in desert biomes, as well as extreme daily temperature fluctuations, makes life difficult for plants.
  • In spite of these challenges, a wide range of plants grows in this biome.
  • The most common plants that thrive in desert biomes include Cacti, small shrubs, succulents, and grasses.
  • To thrive in these harsh climatic conditions, desert plants have developed unique adaptations.
  • Common adaptations include water storage in stems and leaves, waxy coverings on leaves, shedding leaves, all to minimize water loss.
  • The cactus plant, particularly, has adapted well to the harsh climatic conditions of desert biomes such that it’s able to grow up to 20 feet or more and liver for over 200 years.
  • The Giant Saguaro cactus, in particular, has managed to thrive in this harsh biome due to shallow roots, which enables it to soak up rain and dew before it evaporates. It also features a spongy interior, which has the ability to expand and hold a lot of water. Another adaptation of the cactus is that it grows slowly to save energy.
  • The Mugma Tree is another plant adapted to live in desert biomes. It consists of small leaves that uniquely grow upwards and act as funnel when it rains. The funnel-like leaves direct the rain water to the base of the tree, where it’s soaked up by shallow roots. Generally, this adaptation guarantees that the tree will get a lot of water when rain falls.
  • Other plants of the desert biome include Brittle Bush, Desert Ironwood, Chainfruit Cholla, Joshua Tree, Palo Verde, Jumping Cholla, Ocotillo, Pancake Prickly Pear Cactus, Soaptree Yucca and Mojave Aster.
FAQs Related with Desert Biomes
Ques 1. What are the main characteristics of desert biomes?

Answer: The main characteristics of desert biomes include extremely low rainfall, arid or hyper-arid climate, sandy or rocky soils, and limited vegetation adapted to survive in harsh desert conditions.

Ques 2. How do plants and animals adapt to survive in desert biomes?

Answer: Plants in desert biomes have adapted to conserve water through features like deep root systems, succulent leaves, and water storage capabilities. Desert animals have developed various adaptations such as efficient water conservation mechanisms, burrowing habits, and specialized physiological adaptations to withstand high temperatures and scarce water resources.

Ques 3. What are some examples of desert biomes around the world?

Answer: Examples of desert biomes include the Sahara Desert in Africa, the Mojave Desert in North America, the Arabian Desert in the Middle East, the Atacama Desert in South America, and the Gobi Desert in Asia. These regions showcase the unique characteristics and biodiversity found in desert biomes.

Read Also : Weather & Climate

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