An ecosystem refers to different sets of interrelationships among living organisms, human beings and to the way they interact with their environment. The paper will focus on complex interrelationships of a desert ecosystem. Deserts are located near two tropics: the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn; these two latitudes describe the zones where the sun is about ninety percent at noon.
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Deserts are divided into categories some of which include hot and cold deserts but they tend to have similar characteristics. An example of a cold desert is the Antarctica desert that is among the world’s largest deserts (Tewari, 1994).
A desert’s is divided into abiotic and biotic components by structure; this in lay terms refers to non-living and living components of the ecosystem. Some of the abiotic components include soil. The main type of soil found in the desert is sandy soil characterized by alkaline PH, such soils have fewer organic matter and low water holding capacity hence referred to as poor soils. Water is another abiotic component whereby deserts are characterized by little or no water.
Temperature as an abiotic component tends to be high during the day and relatively low at night. Wind and climate are also abiotic components. Biotic components of a desert ecosystem consist of plants and animals, whereby these organisms have the ability to sustain extreme temperatures. They also tend to have low production levels and lack diversity because of nutrient inadequacy in this ecosystem.
Desert functionality calls for different cycles, for example, the carbon cycle takes a continuous form. The cycle capitalizes on activities of biotic components, as plants take carbon dioxide, water and light in the process of trying to make food and compounds full of carbon. When these plants wither or die, they rot hence giving back carbon elements that had been taken from the soil earlier. Later on young sprouting plants take in these elements.
Animals play a vital role in ensuring the success of the carbon cycle, during respiration they do breathe in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide. When these animals die, they decompose giving back nutrients to the soil, and this ensures continuity of the cycle. Another cycle in the desert ecosystem is the nitrogen cycle; it refers to how nitrogen is consumed and replaced back to the ecosystem.
In a desert ecosystem, the cycle begins with desert plants taking up nitrogen, animals then consume these plants rich in nitrogen as food, the animals are consumed by other animals (carnivores).When this happens nitrogen that was taken from the plants is transferred to the carnivores. In case of death or excretion their remains decompose giving back nitrogen to the soil, soil organisms then assimilate it making it available for the use by plants.
Functionality of the desert ecosystem is normally disturbed by certain causes some of which include natural causes. Such natural occurrences as earthquakes, earth tremors and landslides may lead to alteration of the normal functionality of the ecosystem. This may lead to the destruction of the soil structure and general structure of the desert.
It may also interfere with the land and the normal systems like gaseous exchange and production levels in the desert. Anthropogenic disturbances may also interfere with the desert ecosystem; some of these include mining activities, infrastructure development activities, air pollution, overgrazing and military training activities. High occurrence of these anthropogenic activities leads to the destruction of vegetation in the desert, unstable soils in terms of structure and increased soil erosion.
Ecosystems recover from initial disturbances through resilience and the theory of secondary succession. Resilience refers to the ability of an environment to maintain its original state, activities and functions despite stress. It is a combination of methods helping to increase the system’s productivity by providing the resources for higher production.
Maintenance of local characteristics of the ecosystem helps it to recover; these characteristics will help decrease soil erosion, maintain soil structure and increase diversity. Secondary succession theory can also facilitate this recovery strategy using the above quoted methods.
Tewari, D. N. (1994). Desert ecosystem. Dehradun, India: International Book Distributors.