Typical desert soils are aridisols, characterized by little weathering of the maternal rocks and low organic matter in the surface layer, formed under the typical influences of desert conditions by strong winds, scattered but torrential rains, and high temperatures. The materials in these soils are often cemented together forming water-impervious hardpans, sometimes containing salts or gypsum. The low soil cover exposes deserts to more wind erosion than any other environment, and to water erosion, as well, if slopes are steep and rain does fall. Desert landscapes come in two categories: shield deserts and mountain-and-basin deserts.
Very low biomass cover is very likely to make some desert dunes susceptible to aeolian erosion, and, with regional warming of between 4.5-6.3 degrees F, (2.53.5 degrees C) most dune fields could be reactivated by 2100. About 10-20 percent of deserts are ecologically degraded by an imbalance between demand and supply for ecosystem goods and services. Because of the extremely slow rate of biological activity in deserts, these ecosystems take decades, if not centuries, to recover from even slight damage. Moreover, because traditional livelihoods in deserts require large areas, they are particularly vulnerable to political and environmental changes. Irreversible damages have been caused in previously good agricultural grounds in deserts by large-scale modern developments, such as dam construction for water and energy supplies.
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