Physical Features of the Desert Biome

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A biome is an ecosystem that includes specific characteristics relative to temperature, climate, plant life and animal life. A desert is just one of eight major biomes on Earth. Though some of the Earth's biomes look very similar to each other, some have very distinct appearances and characteristics. A desert is one biome that is vastly different from the other seven.

A desert is a vast expanse of sand.
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The climate of a desert is hot and dry. The main reason for this hot climate is that deserts are tropical biomes, and are exposed to virtually direct sunlight. The amount of rain in the desert varies slightly from desert to desert, but on average, desert rainfall measures about 1 inch per year.

No need for one of these in the desert.
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Although the desert climate is very hot and dry, there is an abundance of animal life. Varieties of lizards, rats, owls, tortoises, antelopes and bobcats are just a few of the many desert dwelling animals that have had to evolve to survive. Each of these animals have evolved so that water preservation, escape from the elements and dietary concerns are not problems, even in the harsh environment.

The gila monster flourishes in the desert.
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You might expect a desert to be a place where little plant life exists. However, there are thousands of plants that flourish in a desert biome. The two most numerous are the ocotillo, a flowering plant, and the saguaro cactus. Desert plants typically have shallow, but extensive root systems. Desert plants also have either a capacity for water storage or have evolved so that their demand for water is relatively low.

A cholla cactus is a large desert cactus.
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The vast majority of the geographic features in the desert include only sand or rocks and gravel. Vegetation, although diverse, is scare. Though there are sand dunes that appear as hills, the lie of the land is flat. A water-rich ecosystem that can be found in the desert is called an oasis. An oasis is fed by underwater streams and often occurs in a low enough area so that the water table can be tapped.

A desert oasis is an ecosystem within an ecosystem.
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