Four Desert Biomes

There are four types of desert biomes that categorize all of the deserts on the earth.  Hot and Dry, Semiarid, Coastal, and Cold deserts.  We will examine each of the four separately to discuss the uniqueness of each desert biome.

Hot and Dry Deserts

Hot and dry deserts are typically warm during the entire year and become very hot during the summer months.  Because the atmosphere contains little humidity, and the surface environments of deserts are essentially flat, daily temperature extremes are common.  Rainfall is very low and generally occurs in short, concentrated bursts of precipitation, and evaporation rates often exceed the rate of rainfall.

The plants of hot and dry deserts are typically ground-hugging bushes and short woody trees, with leaves that are thick and covered with an outer layer for protection against its environment.  The animal inhabitants are mostly small carnivores, and are mostly nocturnal to avoid the extreme highs of the day.

These deserts are located in the middle latitudes of the earth, found in all of America, Southern Asia, Africa, and Australia.  Examples are the Baja Mexican Desert, the Great Basin in the US, and the desert in the Uluru National Park in Australia.

Semiarid Deserts

Semiarid deserts are similar to hot and dry deserts, but with less extreme temperatures.  Days in the semiarid deserts are very warm, but the nights are typically very cool.  Rainfall is similar to the hot and dry deserts as well, usually being very low and in concentrated bursts.

Plant and animal life is also very similar to hot and dry deserts.  Plants exhibit many spines and protected leaves, and are typically small shrubs or woody trees.  Small mammals are common here as well, but also small reptiles and burrowing birds.

Semiarid deserts are located on the upper middle latitudes of the earth, found in North America, Europe, Russia, and North Asia.

Coastal Deserts

Coastal deserts are moderately warm and cool, changing with the seasons.  Summers are long and warm, and winters are very cool.  Rainfall is typically average of any other biome, but occurs primarily in the winter, while summers have very limited rainfall.

Plants of coastal deserts still exhibit thick leaves and are apt to store large quantities of water.  Animals of coastal deserts often hibernate or have accelerated life cycles for amphibians, because of the vast seasonal changes that occur in these types of desert, which affect the availability of water that is crucial to survival.

Coastal Deserts are located in the upper latitudes of the earth. An example is the Atacama Desert of Chile.

Cold Desert

Cold deserts are just as their name describes, having very cold winters with a lot of snowfall and rainfall during the summer.  

Plants of cold deserts are scattered, covering about a tenth of the entire desert.  Most are deciduous plants with spiny or needle leaves.  Animals are mostly mammals, ranging from small like rabbits, to large like deer or antelope.  Burrowing is a common attribute of the animals in this region.

Cold deserts are located in the latitude caps of the earth, in the Antarctic, Arctic, and Greenland.