The science of ecology deals with environments and the unique wildlife that inhabits them. My “Ecological Travels” series is a survey of different ecological habitats around the world. It’s amazing how similar, for example, rivers are on different continents, even though the actual creatures that inhabit the rivers may be separate species. So this series will take a look at similar ecological zones in different tourist destinations.
Deserts are the driest environments on earth. They typically get scant rainfall annually and thus are extremely challenging ecosystems for the creatures that call them home. Cactus plants are specially adapted to withstand the lack of rainfall. They are one of the few groups of plants which can survive in this hostile environment. When there is vegetation here, it is often far apart to reduce competition for available underground water.
Deserts of the World
Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Arizona, USA — This park is split into two sections, one to the east and the other to the west of Tucson. It preserves the only habitat of these giant cacti.
Death Valley National Park, California, USA — This huge park, the largest in the continental United States, preserves a vast historical (borax mines) and eerily beautiful landscape. Within the park is the lowest spot (on land) in the Western Hemisphere), Badwater, as well as other unique features.
Judean Desert, Wadi Qelt, Israel — This stark, beautiful landscape is south of Jerusalem, just off the highway to the Dead Sea.
Painted Desert, Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, USA — The gorgeous layers of pink, gray, and white sandstone are characteristic of eastern Arizona.
Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah, USA — This panoramic desert landscape has served as a backdrop for many movies filmed in the United States.
Palo Duro Canyon, Abilene, Texas, USA — The sparse, low-growing vegetation here indicates that rains come but are sporadic and irregular..