Life Histories and the Desert Environment

Part of the Adaptations of Desert Organisms book series (DESERT ORGAN.)


Deserts have long captured our imaginations with their inaccessible and inhospitable nature. Even a casual visit to the desert will expose an individual to feelings of vastness, solitude, and one’s own frailty. As one becomes more familiar with the surroundings it becomes increasingly evident that you are not as alone as you had imagined. You begin to see and hear sounds of life all around you, especially in the early morning and evening hours. You are struck by the awesome beauty of the desert landscape even as you view it in the relentless glare of the midday sun. It is at once a kaleidoscope of images, a land of contrasts and paradoxes. Killing heat and freezing cold. Lethal drought interrupted by flash floods. Arid lowlands and moist, riparian montane woodlands. The ground gives birth to heat waves that seem to flicker above the surface as they dance toward the sky. The desert landscape often appears as if it had been painted in a myriad of soft color tones, browns and tans, which contrast sharply with bright reds, radiant whites, deep blacks, and soft purples. Mounds of volcanic ash seem to throw their glimmering white prominences against the shadows of hills. Flat topped mesas rise up at intermittent intervals across the desert floor. In some places mudflats stretch along the ground, tortured and cracked by the dry desert air. Gulleys and ravines, carved by the persistent force of erosion caused by flood fronts, dot the landscape. Some desert places are as dry as you can possibly imagine. Some are stony or sandy, barren, or with varying degrees of vegetative ground cover. Many desert areas are characterized by vast, endlessly shifting dunes of sand.


Sonoran Desert Water Loss Rate Evaporative Water Loss Desert Environment Desert Landscape 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of TampaTampaUSA

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