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The desert biome covers about one-fifth of the Earth’s land surface and is characterized by low levels of rainfall per year and dry sandy terrain. This biome is classified as hot and dry, semiarid, coastal and cold, which may vary in temperature, weather and vegetation.
See the fact file below for more information on the desert biome or alternatively, you can download our 26-page Desert Biome worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
GEOGRAPHY and TYPES
- The most common type of desert pictured in popular culture is the hot and dry desert with expansive sand dunes. The largest of this kind is the Sahara Desert, which covers over 3 million square miles of North Africa. Like the Arabian Desert in West Asia, and the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa, the Sahara is a dry and sandy desert. Generally, this type of desert is very hot during summer. The atmosphere contains little humidity causing extreme temperatures between day and night, which can be as high as 49 ℃ and as low as -18 ℃.
- The Atacama Desert in Chile receives the lowest rainfall rate yearly, compared to the Sahara and other deserts in the United States. The soil in hot and dry deserts is course and rocky.
- Like hot deserts, the semiarid type has a moderately long and dry summer with an average temperature of 38 ℃ during the day and 10 ℃ at night. It has a wide spectrum of soil textures from fine sand to loose rock fragments. The sagebrush in Montana, Utah, and Great Basin are among the examples of semiarid deserts.
- Coastal deserts, like the Atacama in Chile, experience cool winters followed by long, warm summer. The temperature during summer can reach as high as 35 ℃ and -4 ℃ during winter. Unlike hot and dry deserts, this type has fine-textured soil with fairly good drainage.
- The Antarctic and parts of Greenland have cold deserts, which are characterized by cold winters with snowfall and high rates of rainfall in winter and occasionally during summer. Summers are short, moist and moderately warm at 26 ℃, while during the long cold winters, temperatures can be as low as 4 ℃.
FLORA AND FAUNA
- Due to the harsh desert environment, both plants and animals have adapted to survive. Most plants are good at storing water until the next rainfall. Some seeds remain dormant in the sand until rain falls. Among the most famous are cacti, which are coated with a waxy substance to prevent water from evaporating and sharp spines prevent them from being eaten. Their roots are shallow enabling them to absorb water immediately. Other plant species in the desert are sagebrush, ocotillo and creosote bush. Aside from extensive root systems, desert plants also have very thick leaves to store water whenever available. Plants that store water in their roots, stems and leaves are called succulents.
- Among the four types of desert, plant growth is minimal in cold deserts. Algae, grasses and thin-leaved plants only grow in summer in cold deserts.
- In order to avoid hot temperature, many desert animals are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night. Some of them, like insects, a few invertebrates, rodents and desert tortoises use burrows as shelter to protect them from the heat of the day. Others stay in caves, rock crevices and the shade of bushes during the daytime. Moreover, toads, frogs and desert tortoises undergo the process of aestivation to conserve water and escape the heat.
- Aestivation is like hibernation in tundra animals, which makes them dormant by reducing their heartbeat and breathing. Unlike most desert animals, antelope, squirrels and camels are active during hot summer days because they can absorb high temperatures, which they radiate at night. Animals like camels and donkeys have fur on the top of their body and a sparsely-covered lower body that can release extra body heat.
- In order to avoid water loss, some desert animals like snakes and lizards excrete uric acid rather than liquid urine. Gila monsters store water using the fatty deposits in their tails, which can be reabsorbed if they need water. Moreover, kangaroo rats oxidize food to create water.
- Most animals in the desert are cold-blooded, like snakes and lizards, while mammals are relatively small. Like plants, few animal species are seen in cold deserts.
HUMANS IN THE DESERT
- Deserts are the leading source of fossil fuels around the world. Since the Industrial Revolution, people have been drilling for oil, which operates many machines today. Such continued activity has polluted the air and disturbed habitats of animals to the extent that some species are listed as endangered.
- Because of the harsh environment, many desert animals reproduce slowly and excessive hunting and habitat degradation can threaten their existence. An example is the Addax, a North African antelope.
- Today, the desert is becoming a popular tourist destination because of sand dunes and rock formations. Other recreational activities in the desert include hiking, rock climbing and dirt biking, which disturbs the ecosystem.
OTHER HOT FACTS
- Due to its dry atmosphere and sandy terrain, dust storms are formed in the desert. Dust storms are formed by strong winds that push sand as high as 1 mile into the atmosphere. Among the most famous dust storms are the ones in the Gobi Desert, which have been known to reach Beijing, China, and the dust storms of the Australian outback reaching populated cities in New South Wales.
- Some deserts are continuously expanding due to various human activities. This process is called desertification where habitat degradation from excessive farming and grazing is turning large swathes of land into desert.
- A giant saguaro cactus can grow as high as 50 feet and live up to 200 years.
- Some very hot deserts can evaporate water in the air before it even reaches the ground.
- Deserts can be found in all continents except Europe.
- The Namib Desert in Southern Africa is the oldest desert in the world at millions of years old.
Desert Biome Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about desert biome across 26 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Desert Biome worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the desert biome which covers about one-fifth of the Earth’s land surface and is characterized by low levels of rainfall per year and dry sandy terrain. This biome is classified as hot and dry, semiarid, coastal and cold, which may vary in temperature, weather and vegetation.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Desert Biome Facts
- Hot Facts
- Fact or Bluff
- Top Deserts on Earth
- Hot and Dry
- Unscramble Letters
- Hot or Cold?
- Cold Summer Nights
- World Biomes
- Wildlife Ranger
- The Backpack Traveler
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Link will appear as Desert Biome Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, September 14, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.