Desert biomes involve more than sand dunes with an occasional oasis. Deserts provide for wonderfully adapted plant and animal life. Humans have also adapted to life in arid, desert areas. We live in such an area.
Then we moved to another area of Arizona, to a different desert biome - to the Chihuahuan Desert. Much of the plant life is similar. Many of the unique Sonoran features are not native to the higher elevations of the Chihuahuan Desert.
We've experienced the wide variations of weather in these Arizona desert biomes. During summer, we've thought about how difficult it must have been in the early settlement of the West for people to live here. How did Native Americans, the original peoples, manage in the stark environment of a desert biome. I purchased a very good book, that helped me to understand the difficulties faced by settlers to Arizona in the 1800s.It's about a woman who moved to Arizona from New England - imagine that! What a change. She tells of her experience, as a military wife in the late 1800s. It's an excellent true-to-life book by Martha Summerhayes. I highly recommend it! See more here:
The essential elements that mark a desert biome are:
Other noteworthy points are related to their flora and fauna. Plants are very specialized to the desert biome in which they grow. Animals also are adapted to desert life in various ways.
There are essentially 4 types of deserts throughout the world:
Canyons are found in many desert biome areas. The Grand Canyon is one of the more famous ones in the world. Canyon comes from a Spanish word that means pipe or tube.
Sometimes people refer to a canyon as a gorge - yet a gorge is a much smaller type of feature than a canyon. A gorge is narrower, and its walls are typically more steep. However, we won't quibble over the two! A canyon's features are quite similar - just much grander!
A canyon is a type of valley, but it has steep cliff-like walls. The valley within a canyon is also relatively narrow. It's a deep valley, relative to the walls surrounding it.
A canyon is most often formed by a river. The Grand Canyon is a prime example, formed by the Colorado River. Over time the water wears away at the river-bed, creating erosion. Some tectonic action - movement of the earth's plates at geologic rifts and faults - helped in its formation also.
Sediments on river floors help in wearing the down the river-bed
further, as they move along. The bed is carved deeper and deeper into the earth,
until a canyon is formed. Flash flooding exacerbates this process,
speeding it up. This geological process does take millions of years!
Weather also aids canyon formation in desert biomes. When viewing rocks on mountainsides, think of rainwater or snow falling there. As this moisture gets into cracks in the surfaces, over time it works on these openings - eroding them.
Other actions involve temperature variations. The freezing and thawing. The movement of rain water and sand wearing on the surfaces. Over millions of years, the surface erodes away forming a dry canyon or a slot canyon. A river is not needed in these cases.
The other method for canyon formation occurs in areas of earthquake activity. This happens with tectonic formation. When movement of a tectonic plate makes a fault line dip between one plate to the other, a canyon can be formed. These can be seen along the famous San Andreas Fault in California.
Canyons are quite scenic, and take various shapes. Box canyons, slot canyons, etc. Some people specialize in climbing canyon walls, others in hiking through canyons.
It's amazing to think of it - but actually one-fifth of the earth [See a Comparison>] is made up of desert biomes!
Most desert biomes of the earth are located in specific areas. In the Northern
hemisphere, between 15 and 35 degrees latitude. Similarly in the
Southern hemisphere, between 15 and 35 degrees latitude. This places
them central to the Tropic of Cancer in the North, and central to the
Tropic of Capricorn in the South. The cold deserts, however are in the
Arctic areas. Arizona contains 3 desert biomes.