The Desert Biome

Deserts make about 20% of total land cover on earth and are characterized by little (less than 50cm/yr) or no rainfall. Desert biomes come in four major kinds— each of these having their unique features but have similarities in their biotic and abiotic makeup. They are the Hot and Dry Deserts, Semi-Arid Deserts, Coastal Deserts, and Cold Deserts, and within these are many deserts located in many places of the world.

Desert biomes have very high temperatures because of the little vegetative cover, less cloud cover, low atmospheric moisture, and the land’s exposure to the sun. Humidity is very low, with a few events of very little rain in a year.

Soil cover is shallow and rocky, as a result of very little weathering (breakdown) and supports only a few plant types. Soils have very little or no organic matter, and very low in salt content.

Plants that survive here are short shrubs and cacti, which have the ability to conserve water. Plants are also less leafy, using their stems for photosynthesis. Examples of plants are the yuccas and the sotol.

Animals here tend to burrow or stay in hideaways till dusk to avoid the heat. They are mainly small carnivores, birds, insects, snakes, and lizards, and are adapted to survive with very little water. Examples of the Hot and Dry Desert biomes include the Sahara of North Africa and the Chihuahuan of Southern USA and parts of Mexico.

Semiarid Desert biomes include the sagebrush of Utah, Montana, and the Great Basin. Atacama Desert of Chile and Peru are examples of Coastal Desert biomes.