An ecosystem can be described as an environment that is biological and includes all living organisms that could be found in that area. It also includes physical components, which are nonliving, in the area. Examples include the air, sunlight, water and soil. It also describes how the biological organisms interact with these nonliving things in their habitat. Therefore, a desert ecosystem can simply be described as living organisms in a desert together with how they interact with their desert environment.
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This ecosystem is present in most parts of the world. It can as well be found in the United State of America, especially North America. These deserts are mostly found between the east of Sierra Mandrel Oriental and the mostly Rocky Mountains. There is also the Transverse, Peninsular Ranges and Sierra Nevada that are majorly due to the western rain shadow. To cut the chase, there are about 3 greatest deserts in North America.
Chihuahuan Desert covers Texas, Mexico, Arizona and New Mexico and is about 140,000 sq miles. Sonoran Desert covers California, Mexico and Arizona and is approximately 120,000 sq miles. Mojave Desert covers Utah, Nevada, California and Arizona and is about 22,000 sq miles (Defenders, 2007). Others include Alvord Desert in the County of Harney south-eastern parts of Oregon, Amargosa in Nevada County of Nye and Baja in California.
Desert climate could be defined as one that does not stand a chance of being classified as polar climate. It is thus characterized by very low amounts of precipitation which is always not enough to enable the proper blossoming of vegetation and hence the term arid climate. Precipitation in desert areas would mostly be less than 250mm each year.
Although some area might experience more than 250 mm of precipitation, these areas would end up losing more in form of vapor and hence end up still retaining their desert nature. The mean temperature varies from an average of 180 C for hot deserts to between 0 and -30C for cold deserts. Additionally, these desert environments would always have an annual precipitation
The type of vegetation in this ecosystem has drastically been made to adapt to these harsh climatic conditions. Therefore, these many plants have ended up thriving in these conditions. Such an example is the famous cactus called saguaro which could be found mostly in the Sonoran desert.
Other cactus plants include prickly pear organ pipe and many others. Shrubs are also found in these places for example the desert sunflower in the Baja California. Xeric shrubs can also be found in these ecological regions. They however create some varied associations that are based on conditions of the soil and the general elevation. Therefore to summaries, these desert ecosystems would normally have shrubs and cactus forming the major part of their vegetation.
Just like any other place, there would be animals that are specially adapted to these desert conditions. Snakes and lizards form the first batch of wildlife that is adapted to these harsh climatic conditions. This is due to their ability to survive scarce water conditions due to their thick hardy skin or sometimes spiny to prevent water loss.
Some of the other animals in the desert include the Mexican gray wolf or the famously called el lobo in the Sonaran desert (Elora, 2003). Other wildlife in this desert is the mountain lion, horned owl and the all too famous rattlesnake. Most of the animals in these hot places are usually buff colored or a bit light gray. This is usually so as to provide adequate amount of camouflage. It also acts as a form of preventing absorption of light. Most of these animals could as well be found in other North American Deserts.
A typical food chain in the ecosystem includes the shrubs or cactus acting as the autotrophs or producers. In deserts like the Baja desert, the major consumer of this vegetation is the Mule deer.
The deer along with other herbivores like the Desert Bighorn sheep forms the second level of the food chain. Unfortunately for them, they become the major target of other omnivores and carnivores like the mountain lion and the coyote. However, it all comes down to the decomposers like bacteria who form the fourth level in the food chain (Amsheri, 2005).
These organisms feed on dead plants and animals eventually returning the nutrients to the soil where. An example of a prey/Predator relationship that exists in these deserts is the one between the Big Horn sheep and the Kit fox in the Sonoran Desert. Another relationship is between the coyotes and other small animals in the Baja desert like the rats.
Environmental issues in play in these deserts include the threat from the human population. This is from game hunting and overgrazing in the little remaining shrubs in the desert. This is especially true in the California desert of Baja. Other environmental issues affecting this desert include the continuing expansion of the desert due to increasingly higher global temperatures.
Amsheri, A. (2005). Desert Food Web.
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Defenders. (2007). Desert Habitat Facts. Web.
Elora, P. (2003). Sonoran Desert. Web.