Desert Biome

Jake Wehr

Vitals of Biome

The desert biome takes up about a fifth of the earth' s surface. There are both hot and cold deserts. Antarctica is the largest desert in the world. The largest of the hot deserts is the Sahara in Africa. There are also four major hot deserts in North America, including the Mojave and Great Basin. The temperature in hot deserts is usually very hot and dry. In a cold desert the weather is frigid and icy. Cold deserts get most of there rainfall in the summer, while hot deserts gets the least amount of rainfall in the winter Either instance, there is not much rainfall.



Climate of Biome

The temperature in hot deserts is usually very hot during the summer and warm the rest of the year. The hot desert will get most of its yearly rainfall in the months not in winter, while only getting on average 1-2 in. of rainfall per year. Cold deserts have short, moist summers and long winters like those in Antarctica. The temperature in the winter ranges from -5 degrees Fahrenheit to -110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Plant Life

Plants do not have it easy living in deserts. Plants in deserts have had to adapt in many ways to be able to stay alive. Most are good at storing and finding water. Other plants have seeds that will stay dormant in the sand long enough for water to come along. A commonly occurring plat in deserts is the cactus. Cacti have waxy skin so water cannot escape from them. They also have spikes on their trunks to prevent animals from stealing all of their stored water. Their roots are long and shallow so when it rains, the water is collected quite rapidly. Most of the plants you find in the desert have roots that go along the surface of the ground to collect rainwater, and might go as far down to reach aquifers underground. Plants in the cold deserts include algae and grasses that usually grow in the summer.


Animals

Most of the animals in the desert are cold blooded. This means that they can survive in hotter temperatures. The animals in the desert that are small use the leaves of dead plants to protect themselves from predators like hawks or foxes. It is very hard to find food in the desert, so animals sometimes starve. It is even harder to find water in the desert, and dehydration is another leading cause of death in hot deserts.


Adaptations:

  • The Banded Gila Monster has very dry skin because it can not afford to lose any fluids.
  • The Cactus Wren has a long, curved beak so it can excavate water from deep inside the cactus.
  • The Big-Horned Sheep has developed grippy hooves for climbing up mountains to escape predators, and find shade in caves.
  • The Desert Kangaroo Rat has adapted to desert life by getting its water from the food it eats.
  • The Desert Tortoise front legs are muscular and flattened with long claws, and are very well adapted for digging deep burrows.
Cooperation/ Competition:

  • Snakes and hawks compete for birds and rats to eat.
  • Birds and worms compete for the fruit of the prickly pear.
Predator/Prey Relationships:

  • A hawk will prey on a Desert Kangaroo Rat
  • A snake will prey on a Cactus Wren
  • A Cactus Wren will prey on a Desert Worm
  • A desert worm will prey on desert bugs

Interesting...

The giant saguaro cactus can grow up to 50 ft. tall and live for 200 years.


Ecological Concerns

Humans are the number one threat to the deserts. Global warming will eventually destroy all plant and animal life in the desert. Also, the desert barely gets any rainfall, and what rainfall it does get the humans take for irrigation. Nuclear waste is often dumped in the desert, and grazing animals can kill off the plants.


Endangered Species:

  • Mojave Desert Tortoise
  • Peninsular Pronghorn

Importance of the Biome:

It is important to preserve deserts because they take up about 1/5 of the earths surface. You can also find many plants and animals in the desert that you would not be able to find anywhere else.