What Is So Special About Deserts

Long time readers of this blog would have noticed that I have a special interest in deserts.  A lot of that has to do with how I grew up, but I have often found that many nature enthusiasts don't think of deserts as being that interesting.  I'll just share some of what makes it special to me, from a nature oriented point of view.

1.  You see everything.  One thing that has been really fun for me over the years has been to learn about the behavior of animals that I have had the great fortune of seeing on a daily basis.

One animal that stands out is the Oryx, a arid-adapted antelope that is so special to the Namib.  They are attractive just to look at, but I have come to appreciate so much more about them simply because I have had the opportunity to observe them well.  The reason why it stands out to me is because if you are in areas that are more thicket like, you only witness small amounts of behavior and then the animal disappears into the bush.  And often that behavior that you see may be influenced by the presence of people and vehicles.

In the desert you see thing from far away, far enough that your presence has little influence, and open enough that you can sit and watch the whole interaction play itself out.  It really becomes small simple things that you appreciate.  One thing that has been fun to observe is simply when a herd moves form one bull's territory to another's.  There is a whole host of interactions that goes on...the old bull walking right to the edge of his territory, watching them go, the other bull waiting in anticipation.  Then he starts to sort out the young males, making sure they stay well away from the interesting females.  Then checking each female, and getting varied responses.  The whole process can take a long time.

That's just one example, and of course there are many other things that you just get to observe better than you would in the 'bush'.

2.  It's simple.  This isn't always so correct, but you get a great feel for ecology and interactions on different levels, because there are fewer things to confuse the whole process.  It's a bit hard to explain, but the ecology is a little more fun to try to understand because there isn't a lot of factors to consider.

3.  This one is special to the Namib, but you get to observe all this wildlife with amazing landscapes as a backdrop to the whole experience.

4.  It's less irritating.  Go birding in African woodlands, and after a short walk you have little gnats and things in your nose and ears while you peer at the birds in the canopy.  Sure, there are things like that in the desert, but to a large extent you don't have so many bugs to bother you while you are out on foot.

5.  It's all special simply because of the aridity.  Every animal, every plant, all this life in the desert, all of it has to deal with significant aridity...the problems of temperature and temperature control with limited water and often limited food sources.  Life is harder, and yet many organisms embrace it.

6.  One thing that was special to me about the Namib, and I think this doesn't make is stick out from other deserts, but rather from ecosystems that have more commercialization...deserts are still rather unknown.  Especially the so called "Pro-Namib" area that I got to know, isn't well known by scientists, and there is very little knowledge about it within the public in general.  It means that you have the chance to get a special inside look.  It's a special, unique ecosystem to try to understand.

7. Because there are fewer bushes, and often sandy soils, it's an easy place to learn tracking, and animal tracks can tell you so much about an ecosystem. In the desert you learn so much about the nocturnal activity that is so important in a place with souring day time temperatures.

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Shem Compion said...

And cause they are so beautifully silent in the most perfect of times!
great thoughts there.

Andy said...

Darn, Shem. You beat me to it. Deserts are one of the few places where I have heard that most precious of commodities - nothing. (Except for my tinnitus, of course!)

Namib Naturalist said...

On NamibRand I sometimes walked into the dunes and if you have a windless day and you are far enough in, you really only hear the blood thumping in your ear. It is amazing.

Lisa Blair said...

Great thoughts on deserts really superb contents...feel so lonely and silent to walk on deserts..nobody can miss the experience.

holiday in bhutan said...

i have traveled to thar desert in rajasthan and it was one of the highlight of my trip to india.

triacme said...

Great explanation about desert...
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Vernon said...

Thank you for all your comments