Brito JC, Pleguezuelos JM



The desert biome is usually perceived as bare and rather homogeneous area that exhibit relatively low diversity in comparison to other biomes. However, deserts are surprisingly rich, harboring about 25% of continental vertebrate species and comprising highly adapted and specialized species that are found nowhere else. They display high rates of endemism due to the adaptive processes of organisms to the extreme environmental conditions, as well as locally endangered hotspots of biodiversity. Biodiversity is distributed according to the extreme climatic conditions of deserts, and concentrates in mountains, suitable climatic corridors, and in the rare, generally small, and fragile wetlands. Geological events and palaeoclimatic oscillations largely drove the main evolutionary processes, acting over diversification and speciation events mainly through vicariance. Remarkable and unique adaptations for survival in the aridity, heat, and salinity conditions of deserts are found in species inhabiting these environments. Desert biodiversity is currently threatened by increasing human exploitation activities and climate change. Still, deserts classify as one of the last wild biomes on Earth, where implementing conservation actions would be most cost-effective. Long-term conservation of desert biodiversity requires appropriate policy instruments that promote conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Raising environmental alertness and pride within local communities of the value and uniqueness of the desert wildlife is needed to pressure strong policy change.



Journal: Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences

DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.11794-4