What Are Some Facts About the Desert Biome?

Desert biomes are dry climates that receive less than 50 centimeters of rain each year. Desert biomes feature one of four habitats—arid deserts, semi-arid deserts, coastal deserts and cold deserts. The desert biome covers about 20 percent of the earth's surface.

Hot and dry deserts occur in low latitudes, like the Sahara in North Africa and the Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts in North America. Vegetation and animals in dry deserts must withstand high temperatures and survive on little water. Ground-hugging shrubs and short woody trees grow in hot deserts, as do cacti, yuccas, prickly pears, agaves and brittlebush.

Temperatures during the day in semiarid deserts average between 69.8 and 80.6 F. Cooler evening temperatures reduce how much water an animal or plant loses through transpiration or sweating. The condensation of dew may equal or exceed annual rainfall of between 2 and 4 centimeters.

Coastal deserts have cool winters and warm summers and average between 8 and 13 centimeters of rain each year. Coyotes, badgers, toads, great-horned owls, golden and bald eagles, lizards and snakes live in these types of deserts, as do several types of plants, such as buckwheat bush, black bush, rice grass and chrysothamnus.

Cold winters, snowfall and rain punctuate cold deserts, such as those in the Antarctic and in Greenland. Long, cold winters follow short, moist and warm summers, with annual rainfall between 15 and 26 centimeters. Plants and animals in these deserts must withstand temperatures between 28.4 F and 78.8 F during the year. Jack rabbits, kangaroo rats, grasshopper mice, badgers and coyotes live in cold deserts, as do several varieties of sagebrush.