Ecology of Desert Systems


  • Walter Whitford, USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, U.S.A.

Conventional wisdom considers deserts stark, harsh regions that support few living things. Most people also believe that water alone makes the desert bloom. Ecology of Desert Systems challenges these conventional views. This volume explores a broad range of topics of interest to ecosystem, population, community, and physiological ecologists. Climate, weather patterns, geomorphology, and wind and water processes are examined as variables that affect the distribution of biota through fundamental ecosystem processes. Descriptions of morphological, behavioral, and physiological adaptations of desert biota illuminate, through the lens of patch dynamics, principles for understanding observed patterns of primary production, nutrient cycling, and the effects of consumers. Desertification, and the techniques for monitoring and quantifying it, is examined within the framework of desert ecosystem patterns and processes.
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Undergraduate and graduate students, professionals, and scientists in environmental and natural resource management.


Book information

  • Published: March 2002
  • ISBN: 978-1-4933-0214-7


"Ecology of Desert Systems is well written and would be engaging for students with some knowledge of biology. It should also appeal to most professional ecologists who want a succinct and authoritiative summary of the important aspects of desert biology. It is written by someone who has paid his dues spending as much time in the field studying deserts as almost anyone I know." -James A. MacMahon, for ECOLOGY, April 2003 "Whitford's book delivers a large amount of information on arid regions . . . I can recommend this book to anyone interested in the ecology of arid lands." - Stefan Porembski, for PLANT SYSTEMATICS AND EVOLUTIONS, 2004

Table of Contents

Conceptual Framework and Paradigms.Landforms, Geomorphology, and Vegetation.Characterization of Desert Climates.Wind and Water Processes.Patch—Mosaic Dynamics.Adaptations.Primary Production. Consumers, Consumption, and Secondary Production.Decomposition and Nutrient Cycling.Desertification.Monitoring and Assessment.Desert Ecosystems in the Future.