Desert Ecosystem

Desert Ecosystem

Intended
Learning Outcomes

At the end of this Lecture, students will be able to

• Explain Desert ecosystem

• Discuss the characteristic features of Desert ecosystem

• Discuss the structure and functional of the Desert
ecosystem

Content

• Introduction to Desert ecosystem

• Characteristic features of Desert ecosystem

• Structure and functional of the Desert ecosystem

Desert
Ecosystem

• Desert and semi-arid lands are highly specialized and
sensitive ecosystems that are easily destroyed by human activities

• The species of these dry areas can live only in this specialised
habitat

What is a
desert or a semi-arid ecosystem?

• Deserts and semi-arid areas are located in Western India
and the Deccan Plateau

• Climate in these vast tracts is extremely dry

• There are also cold deserts such as in Ladakh, which are
located in the high plateaus of the Himalayas

• Most typical desert landscape that is seen in Rajasthan is
in the Thar Desert

• This has sand dunes

• There are also areas covered with sparse grasses and a few
shrubs, which grow if it rains

• In most areas of the Thar the rainfall is scanty and
sporadic

• In the adjoining semi-arid tract the vegetation consists
of a few shrubs and

• Thorny trees such as kher and babul

• Great and Little Rann of Kutch are highly specialised arid
ecosystems

• In the summers they are similar to a desert landscape,
however as these are low-lying areas near the sea, they get converted to salt
marshes during the monsoons

• During this period they attract an enormous number of
aquatic bird’s such

• Great Rann is famous, as it is the only known breeding
colony of the Greater and Lesser Flamingos in our country

• Little Rann of Kutch is the only home of the wild as in
India

• Desert and semi-arid regions have a number of highly
specialized insects and reptiles

• Animals include the Indian wolf, desert cat, desert fox
and birds such as the Great Indian Bustard and Florican

• Some of the commoner birds include partridges, quails and
sandgrouse

How are
desert and semi-arid ecosystems used?

• Areas of scanty vegetation with semi-arid scrubland have
been used for camel, cattle and goat grazing in Rajasthan and Gujarat and for
sheep grazing in the Deccan Plateau

• Areas that have a little moisture, such as along the
watercourses have been used for growing crops such as jowar and bajra

• Natural grasses and local varieties of crops have adapted
to growing at very low moisture levels

• These can be used for genetic engineering and developing
arid land crops for the future

What are
the threats to desert ecosystems?

• Several types of development strategies as well as human
population growth have begun to affect the natural ecosystem of the desert and semi-arid
land

• Conversion of these lands through extensive irrigation systems
has changed several of the natural characteristics of this region

• Canal water evaporates rapidly bringing the salts to the
surface

• The region becomes highly unproductive as it becomes
saline

• Pulling excessive groud water from tube wells lowers the water
table

• Thus human activities destroy the naturalness of this
unique ecosystem

• The special species that evolved here over millions of
years may soon become extinct

How can
desert ecosystems be conserved?

• Desert ecosystems are extremely sensitive

• Their ecological balance that forms a habitat for their
plants and animals is easily disturbed

• Desert people have traditionally protected their meagre
water resources

• The Bishnois in Rajasthan are known to have protected
their Khejdi trees and the blackbuck antelope for several generations

• The tradition began when the ruler of their region ordered
his army to cut down trees for his own use

• Several Bishnois were said to have been killed while
trying to protect their trees

• There is an urgent need to protect residual patches of
this ecosystem within National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries in desert and semi-arid
areas

• The Indira Gandhi Canal in Rajasthan is destroying this
important natural arid ecosystem, as it will convert the region into intensive
agriculture

• In Kutch, areas of the little Rann, which is the only home
of the Wild Ass, will be destroyed by the spread of salt works

• Development Projects alter the desert and arid landscape

• There is a sharp reduction in the habitat available for its
specialised species bringing them to the verge of extinction

• We need a sustainable form of development that takes the
special needs of the desert into account

Summary

• Desert and semi-arid lands are highly specialised and
sensitive ecosystems that are easily destroyed by human activities

• Climate in these vast tracts is extremely dry

• Great and Little Rann of Kutch are highly specialised arid
ecosystems

• Human activities destroy the naturalness of this unique
ecosystem

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