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Desert Ecosystem

Last updated date: 14th Apr 2024
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What is the Desert Ecosystem?

Despite several pieces of research about life on other planets, it has come to a conclusion that Earth is the one and only planet where living organisms are found. Survival requires specific forms of atmospheres, land formations, and ecosystems that only Earth comprises. Each continent on this planet includes a desert and comprises its own ecology, better referred to as the desert ecosystem.

The word desert is a largely barren, dry and abandoned land without flora or fauna in the sand. It might be cold and hot. The Desert is the most dried area on the planet that gets negligible precipitation on an annual basis. It receives less rainfall throughout the year.

So, the desert ecosystem is the planet’s driest ecosystem, and thus, it has less diversity of life and little vegetation. Being a part of the terrestrial ecosystem, it houses animals and plants that can live in harsh weather conditions. The desert ecosystem is devoid of any precipitation and rainfall.

So, the desert ecosystem is a community of non-living and living organisms living and interacting with each other in an abandoned environment. It’s the interaction between Abiotic and Biotic Components of this environment. If you are searching for the desert ecosystem PDF, read on to learn further about its features.

Characteristics of Desert Ecosystem

Here are the characteristics of desert ecosystem:

  • Less Rainfall or Precipitation

Less precipitation is a significant desert feature and the reason behind its dryness. Deserts receive seasonal rainfall that occurs for a small duration (just around 25 to 30 centimeters).

  • Aridity

Aridity implies a deficiency of dry moisture. As it experiences less rainfall, it results in aridity

  • Wind Velocity 

Wind velocity is high in this ecosystem. That’s why deserts experience dust storms or sandstorms of higher intensity, forming sand dunes.

  • Extreme temperature

This type of ecosystem experiences extreme hot or cold temperatures during night and day! The days happen to be hot, while nights are extremely cold. 

  • Humidity

Its humidity level is low in the daytime, while it turns out to be high during the nights.

  • Population Density

Population density happens to be low in the deserts. And there’s a dearth of food and water, plus the climatic conditions are harsh which is certainly not preferable for living.

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  • Scarcity of water

As it receives negligible rainfall, there’s a scarcity of water. This shortage of water makes deserts experience drought for more than six months!

  • Biodiversity 

Surviving in a desert ecosystem is challenging. But in spite of this face, deserts house different animals and plants. They have adapted the survival skills to live in such extreme and harsh conditions of a desert.

  • Soil Quality

Deserts are rocky, dry, sandy, and thin. Thus, it experiences low growth in vegetation. The soil is grey in color that does not have any organic contents such as phosphorus and nitrogen.

Outlining the Desert Ecosystem Types

Besides dry and hot areas, desert ecosystems also exist in the arid, tropical, and extremely cold areas. Here are the types:

1. Hot & Dry

This ecosystem comprises dry and hot climatic conditions and receives low rainfall annually. Extreme variations in the temperature are there where the soil is harsh and rough. The best dry & hot desert ecosystem examples are South Asia, Central America, Africa, Australia, North America, etc.

2. Semi-Arid

It’s similar to the prior one. This ecosystem has stable ground, hard rocks, and lesser sand dunes. Temperature isn’t extreme. The best example of this kind of desert ecosystem is the Great Basin, which gets a good amount of rainfall.

3. Coastal

It’s found in the large water bodies’ coastal lines such as seas and oceans and affected by ocean currents. Besides receiving winter fog, the climate is hospitable. Namib in Africa and Atacama Desert in Chile have a coastal desert ecosystem.

4. Cold desert ecosystem

It comprises abundant rainfall during winters and less during summers. It has chilling winters and snowfall, shorter summers, and a moderately moist & hot climate. The ecosystem is covered with snow dunes. The best cold desert ecosystem examples are Antarctica, the Nearctic realm, and Greenland.

Functions of Desert Ecosystem

Desert ecosystem happens to be a significant part of our planet. And regardless of how dry or harsh this ecosystem is, it has a function to play. Each function of the desert ecosystem in the bullet point has a significant part to contribute to the planet.

  • It serves as a habitat to multiple species of animals and plants and. These animals and plants have adapted, and they survive in extreme environments.

  • It acts as the carbon sink. That means the bacteria in sands help in storing CO2 or carbon dioxide in order to prevent it from getting into the atmosphere.

  • The ecosystem is a huge source of natural gas, oil, and minerals and. 

  • Desert ecosystem contributes to the production of salt.

  • It’s a perfect ecosystem for preserving the historical belongings of Mother Nature. So, deserts have huge significance in archaeological discoveries.

  • They have unusual landscapes & oases. People get attracted to its scenic beauty due to its natural formation. Thus, deserts have become a tourist’s favorite location.

  • Desert sands act as the carbon sink. Scientists found that bacteria that are living in Africa’s Kalahari Desert helps store the carbon dioxide and CO2 from the air.


Thus, you have learned the types, characteristics, structure, function, and examples of desert ecosystems in brief.

FAQs on Desert Ecosystem

1. What is the Structure of the Desert Ecosystem?

In the desert ecosystem, producers happen to be shrubs and bushes, grasses, and trees. The dominant plant species are succulents (water-retaining plants that get adapted to arid climate or even soil conditions) and hardy grasses. In addition to this, some lower plants like xerophytic mosses and lichens also exist. The structure of the desert ecosystem is versatile. While some are red deserts, others are mixed with rocks and pebbles.

2. What are the Desert Ecosystem Components?

Desert ecosystem is characterized by less rainfall of 255 mm and low or high temperatures. Its evaporation rate is high. Cotton, dates, millet get cultivated in places depending on water availability. That depends on desert ecosystem components. On this note, the desert ecosystems are made of some abiotic (sunlight, rainfall, soil, low or high temperature) and biotic elements (like producers, consumers, and decomposers).