What is the meaning of desert ecosystem?
The word desert comes from the Latin word ‘desertus’. ‘Desertus’ means waste, or something that has been left. From this we get English words such as desert and deserted.
An ecosystem is a system of organisms that live together as a community. So, putting these words together, we can say that a desert ecosystem is a community of organisms that live together in an environment that seems to be deserted wasteland.
A desert is any place that is difficult to inhabit. Desert ecosystems can be hot (as in the sandy Sahara) or cold (as on the peaks of mountains where the high altitude makes conditions very harsh) but both hot and cold deserts have in common the fact that they are difficult for organisms to inhabit.
A desert ecosystem is generally witnesses little rainfall, resulting in less vegetation than in more humid areas of the globe. Look closely at any seemingly deserted piece of land and you will usually be able to see:
- Numerous insects living in communities.
- An abundance of plant life.
- Mammals and birds.
- In addition, micro organisms such as bacteria will also be present in this ecosystem, though they are not visible to the naked human eye.
In desert ecosystems, the plant and animal life that lives there will have evolved so that they can combat the harsh conditions (for example, they will have evolved to store water supplies in their bodies as water is very scarce in deserts).
There are so many different types of desert ecosystems. Let us look at each of them in turn.
Types of desert ecosystems.
When we hear the word desert, we usually think of a very hot, sandy environment. But, this is just one type of desert ecosystem. Read on to find out about this, and all the other key types of desert ecosystems.
1. Hot deserts.
Hot deserts can be found close to the equator. The Sahara is a good example of a hot desert. Hot deserts tend to feature scorching hot ground which many plants may struggle to grow on, little shade, and a shortage of water. The plants and animals that live here have evolved in order to adapt to these very hot conditions. For example, cacti have grown a tough outer skin and interiors which can store up any fluid that they absorb so that they can stay hydrated during droughts.
2. Cold deserts.
Hot deserts usually exist at low altitudes. Desertification can exist at high altitudes too, however – and when this happens, the desert will be cold. A good example is the deserted rocky peaks of a mountain. A cold desert may be sandy or rocky, but it will be a harsh environment where organisms have adapted in weird and wonderful ways so that they can survive.
3. Ice deserts.
Ice deserts are another type of cold desert. Here, instead of a sandy or rocky wasteland, we have a seemingly uninhabited region that is composed of ice. Ice deserts can be found towards the north and south poles of the planet, though they may also be located high up on mountain peaks.
Any area of the globe that experiences little rainfall and/ or is seemingly deserted and empty can be referred to as a desert. As we have seen, though, there are actually many different types of desert out there in the world. Desert ecosystems are surprisingly lively and thriving given the harsh nature of the conditions in a desert. And, it is vitally important that we protect these and all other ecosystems for future generations of organisms on earth (including humans) to enjoy.