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Biome: Desert

  • By: Jennifer S. Lalley
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

The desert biome is broadly described as any land that receives less than 500 mm (millimeter) of rainfall per year, including tropical/subtropical deserts falling within ± 30° latitude of the equator, as well as temperate deserts falling between 30° and 50° latitudes (North and South) with an annual temperature less than 10 °C. This biome covers more of the earth's land surface than any other biome—roughly one third of all land is desert. Most of this biome falls within Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

The word desert is derived from the Latin word desertus, meaning “deserted,” reflecting many people's first impression of deserts as being barren and devoid of life. Contradictory to such first impressions, the desert biome has a remarkably high diversity of species, ...

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