The Desert Ecosystem

A desert ecosystem may seem devoid of life but even the most arid sand dune has a desert unique to its location and climate. Even the sparsest dune has some form of life existing in its hostile environment.

A desert environment must exist where there is little rainfall and the climate is extreme in harshness. With little precipitation a desert will at first impression appear to be lifeless and barren. In reality this is rarely the case. The desert supports life forms as varied as any ecosystem on earth.

A Desert EcosystemIn the sand a few large mammals might appear to subsist but the camel is one that we envisage as surviving this environment. Small rodents, rabbits, rats, moles and fox like creatures can be found in the deserts ecosystems. Snakes, insects, burrowing creatures, ants, birds, beetles and lizards are regular inhabitants of a desert environment.

Plant life is often dwarfed because of the lack of rain. The most common plant featured as part of this type of desert is the cactus. Even this plant species can be seen in hundreds of different types, each one evolved to suit the particular desert to which they are endemic. Other plants, such as saltbush and gravillias grow well in this ecosystem. Plants have evolved to have succulent bodies that retain the precious moisture needed for growth. Others have narrow needle like leaves that do not lose moisture. Still others spread across the ground, or grow in the shade of larger plants.

Animals and small arachnids, lizards and other creatures have managed in the harsh climate, hot days, freezing nights, by controlling their body heat. It is vital for any desert ecosystem to adjust to the particular aspects of their environment. The ecosystem is a fragile balance of these species that are able to survive in extremes of temperature and moisture.

Any desert ecosystem will have hidden hosts of wild life, many insects, small lizards, spiders, birds or burrowing creatures. They may not be visible to the untrained eye, but their presence is essential to keeping the desert functioning. Any integral part of the balance goes missing and other life forms, plant or animal may find survival impossible.

Human activity can damage the fragile balance of the environment. It is vital to know and understand the numbers and the idiosyncrasies of the life forms involved in the food chain of the desert before any human activity can intrude on the environment.

One of the harshest environments on the planet, the desert ecosystem offers many strange and unusual adaptations between plant and animal to make sure their survival.