A region that receives fewer than 10 inches of rain annually is considered a desert. This lack of precipitation loosely illustrates what encompasses the desert ecosystem. Although there are many cold deserts around the globe, for the purpose of analysis, the focus of this paper will be hot desert ecosystems.
The extreme heat of the day in some deserts can reach above 120 degrees and drop down below 32 degrees (National Geographic, 1996-2013). These temperature extremes are caused by lack of atmospheric humidity, which in other areas would hold in the heat or block the suns rays. With low humidity and minimal vegetation, the heat from the day is quickly lost, creating the extreme cold nights. Because of the temperature swings and arid environment, both plants and animals have evolved adaptations to thrive in the harsh conditions (Encyclopedia of Earth, 2010-2011).
Within desert biomes, biotic life adapts characteristics, which are advantageous to extreme temperature and precipitation conditions of their ecosystem. Indigenous vegetation and organisms have adapted many survival techniques through natural selection. One example of this can be found in the brittlebush, a common desert plant, which possesses leaves covered with a thick mat of short hairs which helps insulate during extreme weather, trap moisture from the air, and reduce water loss. Other organisms, such as the desert tortoise, have inherited habits to escape the heat of the summer and the cold of winter by digging burrows in the ground (Burge & Royo, 2001). Spring is a peak time for desert activity in which most animals are restlessly foraging for herbs, new growths are beginning again for grass and cacti, and annual flowers bloom. Due to the lack of surface water in desert areas, most animals obtain their water intake from moisture containing plants (Burge & Royo, 2001).
Ecological succession is the gradual development through a sequence...
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