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Desert Ecosystem Organisms which can be found in the desert ecosystem Producers

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Desert Ecosystem

Organisms which can be found in the desert ecosystem

Producers - organisms which get energy from sunlight and turn it into food energy- convert inorganic chemical and use solar energy to generate chemical energy

Consumers (primary and secondary) - carnivores that consume animals or vegetation at the trophic levels (position occupied in food chain) below them

Predators – the tertiary consumers (carnivores) which eat the secondary consumers at the lower trophic level.

Desert examples:

The primary producers (autotrophs) are grasses, soil bacteria

The primary consumers (herbivores) are ants, bats, grasshoppers, ground squirrels

The secondary consumers (carnivores) are: scorpion

The tertiary consumers (carnivores) are eagles, mountain lions, fox, coyote, owl, roadrunner,

Name the organisms that can be found in your ecosystem.

Label major organisms that live in your selected ecosystem: P for producers, C for consumers, and D for decomposers.

In addition to the simple listing on the diagram below, there are additional producers, consumers and decomposers in a desert ecosystem.

cacti - P

snakes - C

lizards - C

maggots - D

fungi - D

insects - C

scorpion - C

rabbits - C

wild cats - C

dingoes - C

antelope - C

rodents (mice, rats) - C

deer - C

birds – C

grasses - P

trees - P

shrubs - P

wildflowers - P

tortoises – C

tarantulas – C

bacteria – D

earthworms – D

beetles – D

millipedes - D

Write a summary of your food web that:

· Addresses the following items:

1. Name of each plant or animal
2. How it obtains energy
3. What eats it
4. How it has adapted to the ecosystem

Name of Plant/ Animal

How it obtains energy

What eats it

How it has adapted to the ecosystem


Snakes, lizards and small reptiles, squirrels and other small rodents

Very few for adults .. eggs and baby’s are at risk from small predators

Has keen sense of vision to find food. Sharp beak to break bones of prey


Lizards and small reptiles, antelope and other grazers

Generally none.

Large teeth to break bones of prey, stealth

Mountain Lion

Antelope and other grazers

Generally none.

Large teeth to break bones of prey, speed


Squirrels and other small rodents, lizards and small reptiles, snakes

Not common, but eagles, mountain lions, coyotes may

Large teeth to break bones of prey


Insects, small rodents

Eagles and hawks

Quick to strike, can go long time without eating

Lizards and small reptiles


Snakes, birds and some other mammals

Some can camouflage into desert colors



Snakes, birds

Nocturnal for best hunting

Squirrels and other small rodents

Primary producers

Snakes, badger, eagle

Hiding places


Primary producers

Bats, lizards, small reptiles

Bad taste, smell and some secretions that aren’t pleasant

Antelope and other grazers

Primary producers

Coyote, mountain lion

Fleet footed, travel in herds


Nutrients from the soil

Rabbits, insects and small rodents

Shallow root system

Soil bacteria

Nutrients from sunlight

Single celled organisms

Meant to be eaten


Nutrients from the soil

Insects some small rodents


Desert wildflowers

Nutrients from the soil

Insects, desert rats, seeds are eaten by birds


Describes the major categories of organisms: producers, consumers, and decomposers.

Producers are organisms that are autotrophic. Thus they can create their own food from using the sunlight. Desert systems have very few producers, but the ones that exist are sturdy and have adapted to the harsh conditions. The producers are cacti, sage brush, wildflowers, and soil bacteria. There are many consumers which must hunt to obtain their food and energy. In a desert ecosystem, there are mammals eating reptiles and other mammals, reptiles and small mammals eating rodents and insects. There are bats (mammals) which eat insects but do not have a predator. The decomposers (maggots, worms, bacteria) dispose of the large mammals as well as many of the other consumers and producers. The decomposers are found in the soils.

Describes the interactions between organisms in your ecosystem.

There are numerous interactions that take place in a desert. There are the typical types of interactions that take place between predator and prey. There are three major types of symbiotic relationships which exist:

Mutualism: Bats pollinate many of the cacti and agaves by ingesting the nectar in their flowers.
Commensalism: Some small snakes will take over an abandoned rodent holes.
Parasitism: As in any ecosystem, there is the chance for potential disease spread by insects or other parasites.

Lists the abiotic (non-living) factors present in your ecosystem.

Extreme temperature variations, intense sunlight, lack of water, dry air. (temperature, sunlight, water, air)

What are the benefits of the biodiversity found in your ecosystem?

The greatest benefit of biodiversity is that it promotes the health of the desert ecosystem as well as the genetic diversity and thus favors a stable system. Although it seems that there is not a substantial amount of life in deserts, this is not true. Deserts have high biodiversity. Many animals in the desert are nocturnal which controls their need for moisture. Many plants have developed a resistance to drought. Others have developed long tap roots to penetrate the water table or developed a wide root system to maximize water absorption from a greater area.

Adaptations also allow some plants to lower the surface velocity of wind and thus protect the ground from erosion. Additional biodiversity for erosion protection can also be seen in small fungi and microscopic plant organisms which lie on the sand surface.

Evaluates potential hazards caused by humans that might affect your ecosystem’s stability, such as environmental pollution. What effect does this hazard have on the biodiversity in your ecosystem? 

As with all ecosystems on the planet, survival of the ecosystem’s stability is being threatened by a “combination of human exploitation and climate change” (Conner, paragraph 1). When an ecosystem is threatened, species are lost, habitats are destroyed and weather patterns disrupted. One ecosystem’s damage is not isolated, as the house of cards begins to fall and other ecosystems are affected by the changes in the first.

Deserts are being threatened by loss of “underground aquifers and a poisoning of the soil by salinization” (Conner, paragraph 4). Deserts are drying out. Twenty five percent of the Earth’s land surface is desert and it would be ignorant to think that a loss of stability in the desert ecosystems would not affect human habitats. Deserts and desert plants which have adapted to the amount of water received from glacial melts will die when there is not enough melt to fill the rivers and thus the underground water systems of the desert.

2: Research your ecosystem on the internet: what are the producers in the ecosystem (those organisms which get energy from sunlight and turn it into food energy- plants and such). Start with identifying your producers in your ecosystem.

Producers in a desert ecosystem are sagebrush, cacti, soil bacteria and desert wildflowers.

3: Identify the primary consumers: which organisms get their energy from the producers? (clue: these will be herbivores since they eat the plants which get the energy originally from the sunlight)

Primary consumers in a desert ecosystem are rodents, insects and grazing animals (i.e.antelope).

4: Identify the secondary consumers: these are the animals which are carnivores and eat the primary consumers. They get their energy from consuming smaller creatures; ranging from insects to rabbits and small birds.

 Secondary consumers in a desert ecosystem are small mammals, snakes, lizards and other small reptiles, and bats.

5: Identify your tertiary consumers: these are always those organisms which are the final step in the food chain. They are the larger carnivores that nothing else eats, such as coyote, fox, hawks, eagles, wolf and bears.

 The tertiary consumers in a desert ecosystem are large cats (mountain lions), fox, coyote and hunting birds such as eagles and raptors.

6: Now create your diagram of your food chain inserting and labeling your producers, your primary consumers, your secondary consumers, and your tertiary consumers. Draw arrows from each organism to the organism that consumes it

The organisms displayed in my food web from top trophic level to lowest trophic level are the larger predators (eagle, coyote, mountain lion) which eat smaller predators (snake, lizard, small reptiles). The eagle also eats a plant eater, the squirrel and other rodents. The coyote and mountain lion also eat the antelope (plant eater, grazer). These smaller predators (badger, snakes, lizards, small reptiles and bat) in turn eat plant eating primary consumers (squirrel, rodents, insects). Some small predators eat each other, such as the badger which eats lizards and small reptiles and snakes.


Connor, Steve, Desert life threatened by climate change and human exploitation, The Independent, (June 5, 2006). Retrieved May 2013 from

Food Web in the Sagebrush-Steppe Ecosystem (June 29, 2009), Diagram adapted from

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