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Inch in a Pinch Caterpillar

 

 

"Hello! Welcome! Inch in a Pinch sweating it out here in the Desert habitat areas. It took a little extra effort, but I've managed to find some camels for us to use as transportation while we look at this incredible habitat. Camels are the only way to travel here! Did you know that about one-third of the earth's landmass is desert or semidesert? You can look at a map, if you'd like to see where the deserts are located. Deserts are among the most fragile ecosystems on our planet because of the harsh extremes of heat and lack of moisture. I sure hope you brought your sunscreen. The sun really bears down in the Desert. Oh, I almost forgot, my good friend Kalamity Kanga (she's a Kangaroo rat) will be our guide. Can you believe she actually likes it here? I'll leave it up to her to tell you why. You're on, Kalamity..."

Kalamity Kanga
Kalamity Kanga the Kangaroo Rat

 

"Boy, I'm so happy you came to learn about the Desert! I've been dancing for joy since I found out you were coming. If you don't mind I think I'll just keep on dancing because it feels sooo good! Wanna' join me? Deserts are very interesting places. Only rainforests have a greater variety of plants and animals! Oops, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's learn about Deserts before we talk about the plants and animals that live in them. You learn and we'll talk some more when you're finished. In the meantime, keep on dancin'!" 

 
Description 
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The desert is a region of extremes. It is usually extremely dry, extremely remote and extremely hot. It can also be extremely cold at night (especially in the winter), extremely windy (especially in the summer), and prone to flash flooding in the spring. Desert Image
Desert Landscape
   
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The desert is the hottest habitat on earth. It can be over 100 degrees Farenheit during the day and drop below 32 degrees Farenheit at night. This change happens because deserts are bare. There is little protection to keep them from heating up in the sun and cooling off when the sun disappears at night.
   
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There is little rain in a desert, However, when it does rain, it pours! Violent rainstorms can cause flashfloods in the desert. After a storm, the desert may not see any rain for weeks or months. Sometimes rainstorms fail to wet the desert floor. The rain may turn to vapor before it reaches the extremely hot ground.
   
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Deserts can be sandy, stony or covered in pebbles. The land can be flat or have rolling hills. It can have cliffs, canyons and unique rock formations. Some lie below sea level and others rest up on plateaus and mountains.
   
 
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Deserts have different climates because their locations vary. The seashore deserts are among the driest on earth eventhough they are next to an ocean. The surface of a desert may be dry as bone, but there may be water deep beneath it. Water seeps through the soil from higher elevations and underground streams may flow from caves and hidden springs.
   
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There are two types of deserts - hot and cold. Hot deserts receive what little moisture they get in the form of rain. Cold deserts receive their moisture in the form of snow.
"Cold" Gobi Desert
"Cold" Gobi Desert
   
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Desert oases occur where the water table is near the surface of the desert. Groundwater can be easily extracted to support vegetation and wildlife.
 
Desert OasisDesert OasisDesert Oasis
Desert Oasis
Vegetation with pool of water
 
Some desert oases are big enough to support lush date palms, groves of fruit trees, flower gardens and irrigated fields. Others are nothing more than a circle of green with a well or small spring.
   
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The deserts of the world are growing. Not in a productive way but, in a non-productive manner. Desertification is the process which turns productive into non- productive desert as a result of poor land-management. It occurs mainly in semi-arid areas bordering on deserts. Due to desertification, these areas are slowly absorbed into the desert they border.
Desertification reduces the ability of land to support life, negatively affecting wild species (even those specially adapted to life in the desert), domestic animals, agricultural crops and people.

Kalamity Kanga

 

"Boy, you gotta' be tough to make it in the desert! Now we're gonna' take a closer look at some of the deserts I like the best. These places are awesome! Hey, are you still dancin'?" 

 
Sahara Desert
The Sahara desert is the largest in the world. It stretches for 3,250,000 square miles! This desert covers almost the entire northern quarter of the African continent. In the west, the Sahara is rocky with varied elevation. It contains underground rivers, which result in oases. The central region of the Sahara has more elevation than the other areas. Even though the area lacks rainfall, peaks found in this area are snowcapped during the winter. The Eastern part of the Sahara is dry with very few oases. The Sahara has a poulation of 2 million people
Sahara Sahara
Sahara Scenes
Sahara
 
Chihuahuan Desert
The Chihuahuan Desert region stretches from the Rio Grande Valley in southern New Mexico and the San Simon Valley of southeastern Arizona to an area just north of Mexico City.
Distribution Map
Chihuahuan Desert
Distribution
Chihuahuan Desert
Chihuahuan Landscape
The Chihuahuan Desert is dry because it is surrounded by Mexico's two great mountain ranges: the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Sierra Madre Occidental. Winter temperatures are cool, and summer temperatures are extremely hot. Most of the area receives less than 10 inches of rainfall yearly.While some winter rain falls, most precipitation occurs during the summer months.There is more diversity of cacti in the Chihuahuan Desert than in any other region. More species of Pupfish occur here than in any other desert region. The northern Chihuahuan Desert region has one of the richest bat faunas to be found anywhere.
 
Gobi/Taklamakan Deserts
Gobi Desert Gobi Desert
Taklamakan Desert Taklamakan Desert
The Taklamakan and Gobi deserts lie near each other in Central Asia and are often referred to by the name Gobi alone. The Gobi desert is the fifth largest desert area in the world and one of the most hostile with temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. The word Gobi means "waterless place".
In the Taklamakan Desert, there are poisonous snakes and frequent sand storms, and inhabitantss have to bear lots of tortures such as water shortages and great temperature differences between boiling heat during the day and freezing cold at night. It is said that people who walk into the Taklamakan Desert never come out again.
Kalamity Kanga the Kangaroo Rat

 

"I have relatives in every one of those deserts! Speaking of relatives, let's take a look at the plants and animals you'll find living in the desert habitat areas. We'll continue as soon as you're finished. See you in a little bit! Oh, my gosh, I almost forgot! Click on the buttons below." 

Animals LinkPlant Link

Kalamity Kanga Kangaroo Rat 

 

"Hey, did you notice me on the animal's page? The plants and animals found in deserts have come up with some ingenius ways of making sure they stay alive, haven't they? I never told you why my name is 'Kalamity'. A calamity, with a 'c', means a disaster or tragedy. I keep telling everyone I meet that the desert habitat is in trouble and it would be a real tragedy if we were to lose the it. I say it so often that my friends in the desert call me Calamity Kanga. I changed the 'c' to a 'k'. It looks classier, don't you think? Below, you will find the reasons the desert habitat is in trouble. Please read them carefully! It's important you understand them.

 
Threats to the Deserts of the World
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Desert habitat is disappearing due to human development in the following areas:
1. Mining - not only do the mining operations themselves disturb the desert habitat and plants and animals that live there, the roads built to get needed equipment into the mines also destroy the desert. Uranium mining creates a host of radioactive hazards.
   
2. Tourism - as the people who love this wonderful planet we live on, sometimes in our stampede to experience all the wonders of nature, we can "love it to death".
   
3. Farming - as the population on our planet continues to increase at an alarming rate (estimated at 6 billion by October 1999), the demand for more agricultural products, needed to feed these billions of people, will also increase. With modern technology, it is becoming increasingly easier to turn dry, arid desert habitat into productive farmland. Unfortunately, these lands are overcultivated and soon fall victim to desertification.
   
4. Ranching - overgrazing is one of the major threats to the desert habitat. Mismanagement and overuse of land is putting severe pressure on desert habitat areas.
   
5. Drilling operations - oil drilling operations in desert habitat areas alter the ecology of the desert. The high level of oil product usage in the world is destroying desert habitat. Pollution, produced by car exhaust, increases global warming, which, in turn, changes weather patterns. These changes result in climatic alterations that can shift the fragile balance needed to maintain the dry, arid conditions of the desert.
   
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Deserts are being used as dump sites for nuclear waste and as nuclear testing grounds. Recently, a site was opened in the desert of New mexico to be used for the storage of nuclear waste.

On July 6, 1962 a 100-kiloton nuclear bomb was exploded in the Nevada desert displacing about 12 million tons of earth. The crater is 320 feet deep and 1,200 feet across. The site in the Great Victoria Desert of Australia where nuclear tests were done in the 1950’s and 1960’s is still heavily contaminated with radioactivity. Deserts are remote, which is why many have been used for nuclear weapons research.
   
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As part of the reclamation of desert land for agricultural use, irrigation is used to bring water to the parched land. When the water evaporates, the salts, which are left behind, form hard crusts and render the soil useless for agriculture. The runoff from this irrigation water also increases the salinity of desert streams making them inhabitable for the species that live there.
   
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Due to the uniqueness of desert plants, people seek cacti and other succulents for use as yard decorations. These plants are rare and fragile. Cactus rustling is illegal, but still it continues. These plants are becoming harder and harder to replace. They often die when removed from their environment. People smuggle small plants out of the country in their suitcases or in the mail. Collectors have wiped out entire populations of cacti.
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Certain species of desert animals are also declining because they are especially attractive to people. Some populations have been reduced in number because of the pet trade.
   
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Large numbers of tortoises are run over when they try crossing highways.
   
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Desert Bighorn numbers have dwindled because people have disturbed them and livestock has encroached on much of their food supply.
   
{short description of image} Aquatic desert species are becoming endangered because life-giving streams have been diverted by ranchers hoping to sustain their own livestock.
Kalamity Kanga the Kangaroo Rat

"

Now comes the part where you find out what you can do to help save the Desert habitat areas. I've had messages from friends who live in every desert on Earth. They know you're visiting and they want me to ask you to please help save their homes! Pick something from the list below and get started today! Get your friends involved, too! We'll do our part. Won't you please do yours? Thanks!" 

 
What You Can Do To Help
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ATV's, SUV's and Off Road Vehicles, when used irresponsibly, can cause irreparable damage to desert habitat. Use these vehicles only on designated trails and roadways.
   
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As tourists, we seldom think of the consequences of our fun-seeking behaviors. Use only reputable tour services and guides when exploring the fragile desert habitat. Always stop in at the Parks and Recreation offices (either in your area or when you get to your vacation site) and find out about the area where you will be vacationing.
   
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Make it your business to know about any mining or drilling operations proposed for desert areas. Read newspapers, watch television programs, surf the net, stay in contact with your government representatives by email or snail mail, attend town meetings to stay abreast of what's going on. Oppose any such operations that might harm the desert habitat or the plants and animals that live there.
   
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Make responsible, informed choices when deciding how many children you will bring into the world. Remember that the capacity of the Earth to sustain its inhabitants is finite. Some resources are renewable; others are not. Choose with not only your own wants and needs in mind, but also keep in mind the needs of our planet!
   
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Whenever possible, VOTE into office people who will keep the welfare of wildlife as a priority when deciding land management issues in the areas of mining, drilling, farming, tourism, and ranching.
   
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The problem of what to do with nuclear waste has no easy solution. In problem-solving this issue, we must NEVER think of the desert as expendable! No one habitat is any more or less important than any other! We must fight to keep them all, no matter how hostile or remote!
   
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Many of the unique plants found in the desert are offered for sale in reputable nurseries. There is never a valid reason for going out into the desert and digging up the plant you want to place in your yard. When visiting the desert, leave only footprints and take only pictures!
   
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When deciding on a pet, please consider the fact that the more exotic species found in the desert often do not fair well in captivity. When buying a pet, please NEVER, EVER buy an animal or insect that has been taken from the wild!!
   
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When driving through the desert, it is often tempting to drive a little faster (flat, straight roads; too hot, etc.). The opposite needs to be the rule. SLOW DOWN! By driving slower, you might just see something unusual or wonderful and you stand less of a chance of running over those tortoises trying to cross the road!

Kalamity Kanga Kangaroo Rat

 

"You know, deserts are one of the last true wilderness areas left on Earth! What's left of these great expanses need your protection and help! Please tell others about what you learned here today. Stop by when you have more time. Maybe you'd like to learn some of my dance moves? In the meantime, there's a picture for you to color. Later!"

Inch in a Pinch Caterpillar

 

"WOW! I'd like to learn some of those great dance moves! Isn't Kalamity a real go-getter? She's terrific and she did a terrific job of teaching us about the Desert habitat. What do you say we do as Kalamity asks. First, let's tell somebody what we've learned and next, let's pick one of the help suggestions and start doing it. Can caterpillars vote? Oh well, as Kalamity says, "Keep on dancin'!""


To learn more about Deserts, visit the following:
Desert Biomes
DesertUSA
Deserts geography
 

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Produced by Georgia Lozinsky
©1999-2002
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