Environmental threats to deserts

desert 8 image by Dusan Radivojevic from Fotolia.com

The world is changing, and biomes are suffering as a result. Few would believe that the resilient and tenacious desert would also have threats against its survival; nonetheless, deserts across the globe are suffering from global warming and human development.

Although bare, arid, and nearly lifeless, deserts are an important biome in the world ecosystem and are equally as fragile as a rainforest or grasslands.

Global Warming: Drought

The low levels of water in deserts are further challenged by the current high probability of droughts. Droughts directly affect the growth of vegetation, which in turn directly affects desert animal life. Global warming is raising Earth's temperature, increasing the chances of severe drought.

Global Warming: Wild Fires

As the temperature in deserts increases and watering holes disappear, the remaining plant life suffers from a lack of hydration. In these cases, plant life becomes dry and brittle, making wildfires a great danger. Wildfires are specifically dangerous for deserts because they will burn away the slow-growing trees and bushes and replace them with fast-growing fauna, thereby drastically changing the landscape.

Development: Irrigation

As people migrate to warmer climates, deserts take the brunt of human expansion. Irrigation is essential for the creation of farms, and the effects on the desert are not seen for some time. The long-term ramifications are the problem: deserts experience very little rainfall, and if the majority of that rainfall is occupied in irrigation, the landscape will suffer. Trees and plants will not be able to live on the remaining water. In addition, the salt levels in the soil will accumulate over time, making the soil unable to support life.

Development: Urbanization

Deserts have seen an increase in urbanisation during the 21st century, and the effects on the desert are numerous. The simple act of gathering firewood is destroying this fragile ecosystem. For example, in the Sahel countries of Africa, firewood is being used up 30 per cent faster than it is being replaced.

Since the beginning of 20th century, the world's landscape has drastically changed as a result of human urbanisation. Grazing land for farm animals has seen the desert change while humanity continues to expand.

Cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas are examples of over-urbanisation of deserts. Although seemingly normal cities, these desert communities have built dams and other irrigation tools to make life easier and better. Because of these efforts to bring water into the desert, these communities now live a lifestyle akin to those of other major cities; the natural ecosystem has been disrupted for the betterment of mankind.