Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Systems - Deserts: Life in the Extremes

Elsevier, Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Systems, Encyclopedia of the World`s Biomes, 2020
Dominick A. DellaSala and Michael I. Goldstein

Deserts are biodiverse places where life thrives in the extremes. Deserts cover roughly one-third of the Earth's surface, exist on every continent and in hot (subtropical), cool coastal, and polar climates (the Arctic and Antarctica deserts are covered in the Polar Biome section). Eleven of the world's largest (> 50,000 km2) deserts are in Asia, 7 in Australia, 5 in North America, and 2 each in Africa and South America. Deserts are biodiverse places with many endemic life forms uniquely adapted to some of the most extreme terrestrial environments on Earth. Many species are threatened by agriculture and aquaculture, energy development, desertification, unabated collection of plants and seeds for horticulture and private ornamental collectors, livestock overgrazing, invasive plants, off highway vehicles, and climate change.