Southwest Adventure, Living & Travel

Desert Life

Animals - Plants - People - Environment

Deserts cover more than one fifth of the Earth's land, and they are found on every continent. Deserts can be classified as "hot" or "cold". Deserts receive less than 10 inches of precipitation a year, lack of water creates a survival problem for all desert organisms, animals, plants and people.

Desert Sand dunes
What is a desert?

  • Desert Animal Survival - It's a miracle that life can survive in the extreme conditions of the deserts. Learn about reptiles, mammals, birds, fish and amphibians that have adapted and, in fact, thrive in the harsh ecosystems of the deserts.
  • Desert Animals & Wildlife - The animals you will find within the desert environment.
  • Desert Plant Survival - To survive, desert plants have adapted to extremes of heat and aridity by using both physical and behavioral mechanisms, much like desert animals.
  • Desert Plants & Wildflowers - The deserts are renowned for the annual explosion of vibrant spring wildflowers and succulent cactus that adorn their landscapes. Enjoy the beautiful colors and learn about the unique characteristics of the plants that live in the deserts.
  • Plants and Animals, How They Are Classified - For centuries, biological scientists have worked to classify organisms in a way that would help clarify relationships among species through time, and across different and constantly changing environments.
  • Desert Food Chain in Depth - A food chain constitutes a complex network of organisms, from plants to animals, through which energy, derived from the sun, flows in the form of organic matter and dissipates in the form of waste heat.
  • Desert Food Chain for the Young Student
  • Need for Water in the Deserts - Learn what can happen in a desert basin where no more than a few inches of rain fall in a typical year; where dependable natural water holes and streams lie far apart; where summer daytime air temperatures can soar to well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the soil temperatures to well over 150 degrees; and where small-leaf, spiny, low-growing and widely scattered plants offer scant shade or comfort.
  • Desert People & Cultures - For many centuries the desert has been home to human life, from ancient hunters and farmers, to the native cultures Euro-American explorers first recorded, to settlers and modern inhabitants who enjoy its warm, dry climate and stunning vistas. Throughout the desert regions, monuments and parks have been established to preserve the record of these ancient and historic peoples, including cliff dwellings, rock art, ghost towns and historic sites commemorating all manner of human endeavors, adventures and travails.
  • Desert Survival for People - Learning to be part of the desert's ecosystem is the first step of desert survival. Our philosophy is not to fight the desert, but to become part of its ecosystem. Being prepared is an obvious benefit.
  • Desert Environment & Geology - Learn about the rocks, minerals and gemstones that form our North American deserts.
  • Water Resources in the Southwest
  • Wildfires - In some instances in the chaparral shrublands of coastal California, wildfires trigger germination of various plant seeds.
  • Seasonal Migrations - Seasonal migration is one of the most fascinating feats of the animal world. Although birds are often the most evident of the migrants, animals as small as pinhead-sized spiders and as large as blue whales migrate by land, air or water. Movements can range in length from less than a mile, for Eurasian milkweed bugs, for example, to the incredible 25,000 miles per year of the arctic tern. Migrations may only be seasonal or may take a lifetime to complete.

Deserts of the United States

Deserts in the southwestern United States are areas of extreme heat and dryness, just as most of us envision them. The deserts in the United States and northern Mexico are grouped into four distinct categories. Chihuahuan DesertGreat Basin Desert |  Mojave Desert | Sonoran Desert - More on these deserts.

Glossary - Desert and Geological Terms

Imperial Sand dunes

Imperial Sand Dunes

Deserts of the World

Video available on this subject.Desert Food Chain VideoVideo available on this subject.Videos of Desert Animals Video available on this subject.

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The Desert Environment
The North American Deserts
Desert Geological Terms


Dust DevilsView Video about Dust Devils. Born of the battle between the sun and sand, the dust devil is a rapidly rotating column of air that has wrapped itself around a rising thermal. The average dust devil is ten to fifty feet in diameter. The chief ingredients for a good dust devil are clear skies, a bright sun, and a dry hot surface. Click here to view video.


Desert Food Chain Video - A food chain constitutes a complex network of organisms, from plants to animals, through which energy, derived from the sun, flows in the form of organic matter and dissipates in the form of waste heat. The food chain’s biological productivity and species diversification depend on factors such as the daily duration and angle of seasonal sunlight, the timely availability of water, the daily swings of seasonal temperatures, the chemical content of the soils, and the availability of nutrients. Watch Video


How are sand dunes formed.
What defines a desert.

The desert and the camel.


Take a look at our Animals index page to find information about all kinds of birds, snakes, mammals, spiders and more!

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Hot temperatures in the desertAre you interested in the temperatures in the desert?

Click here to see current desert temperatures!

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