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Deserts

Desert biomes cover about one fifth of the Earth's surface and are defined to occur where rainfall is less than 50 centimeters per year. Although most deserts, such as the Sahara of North Africa and the deserts of the southwestern USA, Mexico, and Australia, occur at low latitudes, another kind of desert, cold deserts, occur in the basin and range area of Utah and Nevada and in parts of western Asia. Most deserts have a considerable amount of specialized vegetation, as well as specialized vertebrate and invertebrate animals. Soils often have abundant nutrients because they need only water to become very productive and have little or no organic matter. Disturbances are common in the form of occasional fires or cold weather, and sudden, infrequent, but intense rains that cause flooding.

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Atacama Desert Last Updated on 2014-04-23 19:10:09 The Atacama Desert is an irregular elongated strip of desert along the northwest coast of Chile, essentially bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west. It extends nearly 1600 kilometres (km) and reaches a maximum width of 180 km. In many areas rainfall has never been recorded, and the Atacama is considered one of the driest deserts in the world. Consequently, an extremely arid, almost barren, landscape predominates. Despite the aridity of this desert, some cacti (Eulychnia), perennials (Nolana), and mesquite (Prosopis) occur in basins where occasional water accumulation occurs. Relatively few animal species have adapted to this arid environment and therefore, faunal diversity and density is extremely low. Even bacteria are scarce, and in many portions of the desert insects and fungi are absent. The intrinsic value of the Atacama Desert's plant and animal communities lies in the... More »
Gulf of Oman desert and semi-desert Last Updated on 2014-04-15 00:07:07 A wide variety of habitats typifies this ecoregion, including coastal mangroves and wetlands, acacia savanna plains, inland gravel outwash plains and the high mountains of the Musandem Peninsula that overlook passage through the Persian Gulf.   Located at the northeast tip of the Arabian Peninsula, this area serves as an important stop-over for migratory birds, with over 400 species recorded including an endemic subspecies of the white-collared kingfisher. Endangered mammals include the Arabian leopard and Arabian tahr. Also, several species of turtle are found on the coast, including the endangered green turtle and the critically endangered hawksbill turtle. Threats include overgrazing, oil spills, wildlife poaching and off-road driving. Situated at the north east tip of the Arabian Peninsula, this ecoregion lies predominantly in Oman with a portion extending into the... More »
Eritrean coastal desert Last Updated on 2014-04-14 23:54:40 The Eritrean Coastal Desert ecoregion runs along the southern coast of the Red Sea from Balfair Assoli in Eritrea to Ras Bir near Obock in Djibouti. It thus forms the southern shore of the Bab-el-Mandeb straits, which form the entrance to the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden. Here, the shores of Yemen and Djibouti funnel a huge bird migration each autumn. In almost all other ways the flora and fauna of the ecoregion is unremarkable although populations of the Dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas), Soemmerring's gazelle (Gazella soemmerringii) and Salt's dikdik (Madoqua saltiana) occur, and the area is located within the Somali-Masai regional center of plant endemism. This ecoregion is located along the coast of Eritrea and Djibouti bordering the Red Sea, and includes several groups of offshore islands, such as the Sept Frères belonging to Djibouti. The climate is hot and... More »
Arabian Peninsula coastal fog desert Last Updated on 2014-04-14 23:42:36 Dense fog and the high diversity of flora and fauna it supports are the key features of this desert ecoregion. Located on the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, in an area of little rainfall, the fog brings the moisture necessary to sustain the many wildlife and plant species found here. This is a very species-rich habitat, with over sixty endemic plants. Fauna include the critically endangered Arabian leopard, the reintroduced Nubian ibex, along with a variety of other mammals including the Arabian gazelle, Arabian wolf and striped hyaena. The main threats to this unique and species rich habitat are overgrazing by livestock, off-road driving, and human encroachment. The most remarkable feature of this ecoregion is the luxuriant vegetation and dense woodland supported by the coastal fogs, in direct contrast to the adjacent desert interior. The heavy fogs on Oman's... More »
Maudlandia Antarctic desert Last Updated on 2014-04-10 14:29:38 Antarctica remains the only relatively unspoiled continent on our planet. Almost entirely covered in a permanent ice cap that reaches as much as 4776 meters in thickness, conditions for life are quite extreme—but, not impossible. Terrestrial vegetation is limited in Maudlandia, though the Dry Valleys region of continental Antarctica is a fascinating ecosystem of flora and fauna highly adapted to polar desert conditions. Colonies of seabirds, penguins, and seals abound around the coasts, obtaining their sustenance from the highly-productive Antarctic seas. While this continent has had relatively little direct interference from humans, it is activity elsewhere that may have the greatest effect on Antarctica. Production of certain gases has contributed to a serious depletion of ozone in the atmosphere over Antarctica, as well as contributing to global warming, which could potentially... More »