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Types Of Desert And Their Ecosystem

Updated on October 22, 2011

Deserts are one of the major ecosystems in the world and constitute one fifth of the earth’s land. There are four major types of deserts:

  • Hot and dry deserts
  • Semiarid deserts
  • Coastal deserts
  • Cold deserts

Hot And Dry Desert

The hot and dry deserts are present around the equator and have a warm and hot temperature throughout the year. The examples of these types of deserts are: Sahara desert, Sandy Desert of Australia and Sonoran Desert.

The Temperature

The temperature of these deserts remains hot through out the year. The temperature may get a little less hot or in some cases exceptionally cold at times, but the summers are extremely hot.

There is almost no or very little rainfall in these deserts because of which there is no humidity in the air which could block the sunrays, hence the sun in these deserts is scorching hot.

A Dry Desert
A Dry Desert

The nights in these deserts are cooler than the day. During the day, the temperature may reach around 48-49o C.

The Soil

Due to no sub surface water the soil of these deserts is shallow, coarse, rocky and gravely. The soil here is coarse because there is almost no chemical weathering of rocks and the fine dust particles get carried away by the wind.


The plants found in these deserts are highly specialized plants which have reduced leaves and thick cuticles to prevent water loss. Common plant species of these deserts are: cacti, turpentine bush, brittle bush, prickly pears, yuccas and ocotillo.

The animals found here are mostly nocturnal and get out at night when the desert is cooler.

There is a majority of reptiles, arachnids and insects while animals such as kangaroo rats are also found in majority. These animals tend to remain buried under the ground during the hot days.

The Thar Desert a type of Semiarid Desert.
The Thar Desert a type of Semiarid Desert.
The Kalahari Desert
The Kalahari Desert

Semiarid Desert

The semiarid deserts can be called the moderate versions of hot and dry deserts.

Common semiarid deserts of the world are: Sagebrush desert and some deserts of North America, Greenland, Russia, Europe and Northern Asia.


The summers of these deserts are pretty much like the hot and dry deserts and are long and dry, but the only difference is that the temperature does not exceed beyond 38o C.

It also gets much cooler at night as compared to the hot and dry deserts.

The winters here are better as low concentrations of rainfall are observed. Although rain is of low concentration, it’s enough to give slight moisture in the air.

The Soil

The soil in these deserts varies from sandy, to coarse, to shallow and gravely. Around the mountain slopes the soil is shallow and rocky; around lower slopes it is coarse while around the bottom land it’s fine and sandy. The soil has a very low salt concentration.


Like the hot and dry deserts, the plants here are highly specialized in conserving water. They have reduced leaved known as spines and thick cuticles.

Common plants found here are: white thorn, cat claw, brittle bushes, mesquite and jujube.

Animals include both nocturnal and day time animals. Non mammals are reptiles and insects while mammals include: kangaroo rats, rabbits and skunks. Some birds such as borrowing owls are also found here.

The Atacama Desert
The Atacama Desert

Coastal Desert

Coastal deserts are moderate deserts where the temperature is normal throughout the year. The Atacama Desert of Chile is the most famous coastal desert.


The winter in these deserts is cool while summers are warm. The average temperature during summers is 13-24o C and is around 5o C during the winters. The rainfall is not very abundant, but on an average 8-13 cm rain falls every year.

The Soil

The soil in these deserts is fine textured, porous and has a moderate salt content. 

Coastal Desert of Sonoran
Coastal Desert of Sonoran
The Gobi Desert is also considered a Cold Desert.
The Gobi Desert is also considered a Cold Desert.
The Antarctic Desert
The Antarctic Desert


The plants here apart from having thick leaves and stems, have an extensive root system which draws maximum water when ever there is a rainfall.

The stems of these plants can store a large amount of water for later use. Examples are: salt bush, buck wheat bush, rice grass, and black sage and little leaf horse bush.

Animals in this desert are highly specialized in storing waters and are well adapted to the conditions of the desert.

A part from reptiles such as lizards and snakes, amphibians like toads and mammals like coyote and badger are also found here. Insects and birds like golden eagle are also present.

Cold Deserts

Cold deserts are exceptional deserts where the temperature is extremely cold. The deserts of Antarctic and Green land are included in this category.


The winters in these deserts are extremely cold and are very long. The summers are relatively warmer and moist with abundant rainfall. The temperature may reach up to 26o C during the summers.

The Soil

The soil of these deserts is silty, having a high salt content and is heavy. The soil is also porous at places.


There is a large population of plants found here. Most plants are deciduous, tall and have spikes instead of leaves.

Animals include: kangaroo rats, pocket mice, jack rabbits, kit fox, deer and coyote. Because of extreme cold there are very few reptiles and amphibians.


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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Thank you for this, such a great help for my written report.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      i love this info. really good 2 have a place where you can get really accurate info.

    • PhoenixV profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      I like how your photos show how really different deserts can look.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      interesting page,we can get some ideas from this page.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 

      8 years ago from United States

      Interesting overview. This does give some good basic information.


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