Why Are Deserts Important?

Deserts are important because they provide corridors for migration for a number of species and yield a number of water-soluble nutrients not available in comparable quantities anywhere else on the planet. The spread of these nutrients benefits species all over the planet.

Many birds not indigenous to deserts use the arid lands as migratory paths, stopping for sustenance at oases along the way. Threats that come from the spread of grassland and human use of resources from the oases place these species at risk.

Deserts are the primary source of table salt, borates, potassium and sodium nitrates and gypsum. Soda, nitrates and boron are the most common evaporite minerals that appear only in deserts. Approximately half of the world’s stores of fossil fuels come from desert lands, including oil and natural gas, and about half of the world’s diamonds, copper, gold, bauxite, iron ore and uranium ore come from the desert as well. The fact that Saharan dust has been found in the Amazon basin shows the worldwide spread of the materials in the desert.

Advancements in industry and technology have permitted the growth of cities in the desert. This increased activity places a strain on the surrounding environment: in the Chihuahuan Desert, for example, about half of the butterfly, mammal and bird species are projected to be gone by 2055, replaced by different species.