Arid land or desert refers to the area of very low rainfall and high evaporation rate. Arid lands are the driest habitats, receiving less than 25cm of annual rainfall.


There are two major types of arid lands or desert. These are hot deserts and cold deserts.

Hot deserts:

hot deserts of the world are located on the western coasts of the continents within latitude 15o-30o North and South of the equator. Examples of hot deserts are Sahara desert (North Africa), Arabian desert and Kalahari deserts (South Africa), Great Australia desert (Australia) and Atacama deserts of South America.

Cold deserts:

cold deserts are located or found in the interiors of the continents around 45o-60o North and South of the equator. The deserts is found in interior of Eurasia, North America and in Patagonia (South America)

Characteristics of Arid Lands (hot deserts)

The major characteristics of arid lands (hot deserts) include the following:

Scarcity of water:

rainfall in arid land is very low and it may occur in few occasions during a whole year and it is always below 25cm per anum.

Hot temperatures:

the deserts temperature are usually very high especially during the day but very low at night.

Presence of sandy soils:

the nature of soil in arid land is sandy or rocky as there is little or no vegetation to improve the soil.

High sunshine:

the sunshine in arid land is very high since there is little vegetation to shield it rays.

Predominance of strong winds:

strong winds are often associated with deserts since there is no vegetation cover to reduce the speed of winds.

Poor vegetation:

the hot deserts have scanty vegetation. It has short and scanty grasses with little and scattered trees and shrubs.

Low relative humidity:

the relative humidity of hot deserts is usually very low since the area is characterized by low rainfall, high temperature and scanty vegetation.

Presence of drought resistant plants:

the hot desert is characterized by the presence of drought resistant (xerophytic) plant species such as thorny bushes, bulbous cacti, dwarf acacias, and oleander.

Distribution of organisms (plant species) in arid lands or hot deserts

Plant species commonly found in hot deserts include: drought resistant plants like thorny bushes, bulbous cacti, scattered dwarf acacia, wiring grasses, date palm, baobab trees and euphorbia spp.

Adaptive features of plants in arid lands



cactus is a leafless plant with prickles or thorns to reduce transpiration. It also has thick succulent stem and side branches to store water for long drought.


this is a drought resistant plant, it has deep roots which absorb underground water deep down in the soil.

Baobab tree:

the leaves are waxy, hairy or needle-shaped to help reduce the rate of transpiration.

Wiring grasses:

it has narrow and slender leaves which helps to reduce the rate of transpiration in the plant.


this plant has extremely deep roots which is able to absorb underground water deep down in the soil.

distribution of organisms (animal species) in arid lands

Animals commonly found in arid lands include: camel, rodents (e.g. rats), lizards, snakes, toads, zebras, desert tortoise, pocket mice, locusts, grasshoppers, ants, butterflies, moths and beetles.

Adaptive features of animals in arid lands



a camel can drink a lot of water to sustain itself for several days and hence can withstand a wide range of body temperature up to 40oC during the day. It can also walk for several days without drinking water.

Kangaroo rat:

this animal remains in burrow during the day to avoid excessive heat thereby cutting evaporation from its body.

Lizards and snakes:

these animals have scales which limit the rate of water loss from their body.


it has water-proof bodies and impervious cuticles. It also produces dry waste products, e.g. uric acid and guanine to enable it conserve water.

Food chain in arid land habitat

The food chain in arid land can be demonstrated by the following examples:
1. Plants==Desert rats==snakes
2. Plants==Locusts==Wasps==Lizards
3. Plants==Ants==Scorpions==Snakes

Factors affecting arid lands

The major abiotic factors affecting arid land are almost the same with that of grassland. These factors are temperature, rainfall, sunlight, wind, and low relative humidity.

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