Land Biomes: Deserts

Desert Sand Dunes. Photo courtesy

Biomes are the world's major habitats. These habitats are identified by the vegetation and animals that populate them. The location of each biome is determined by the regional climate.


Deserts are dry areas that experience extremely small amounts of rainfall. They can be either cold or hot.


Deserts are determined by low amounts of rainfall, not temperature. They typically receive less than 30 cm of rain per year.

The driest deserts often receive less than 2 cm of rain per year. Temperatures in the desert are extreme. Because of the lack of moisture in the air, heat quickly dissipates as the sun sets. In hot deserts, the temperatures can range from above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the day to below 32 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Cold deserts generally receive more rainfall than do hot deserts. In cold deserts, temperatures in winter range between 32-39 degrees Fahrenheit with occasional snowfall.


Some locations of deserts include:

  • Hot
  • North America
  • West Coast of South America
  • Central Australia
  • North Africa
  • Middle East
  • Cold
  • Antarctic
  • Central Asia
  • Greenland


Due to very dry conditions and poor soil quality in the desert only a small number of plants can survive. Desert plants have many adaptations for life in the desert. In very hot and dry deserts, plants such as cacti have thin needle-like leaves to reduce water loss.

Plants in coastal desert regions have broad thick leaves or large root systems to absorb and retain large amounts of water. Examples of desert plants include: cacti, yuccas, buckwheat bushes, black bushes, prickly pears and false mesquites.


Deserts are home to many burrowing animals. These animals include badgers, jack rabbits, toads, lizards, snakes, and kangaroo rats.

Other animals include coyotes, foxes, owls, eagles, skunks, spiders and various kinds of insects.

Many desert animals are nocturnal. They burrow underground to escape the extremely high temperatures in the day and come out at night to feed. This allows them to conserve water and energy. Other adaptations to desert life include light color fur that can reflect sunlight. Some insects and amphibians adapt to their conditions by burrowing underground and remaining dormant until water is more plentiful.

Land Biomes

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Your Citation
Bailey, Regina. "Land Biomes: Deserts." ThoughtCo, Jul. 31, 2015, Bailey, Regina. (2015, July 31). Land Biomes: Deserts. Retrieved from Bailey, Regina. "Land Biomes: Deserts." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 23, 2018).