By Charles F. Gritzner
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Plant Ecology Visitors to desert lands may be surprised by the great differences in vegetation that covers the ground from place to place, often within short distances. Desert flora are keenly adapted to those environmental conditions in which they are best able to survive. Minor and seemingly insignificant differences in habitat make a huge difference in where certain plants are found. Plants respond to such environmental conditions as slope, exposure to the sun, elevation, the courses of dry streams, and even large rocks that provide shade.
Population growth and the dawn of early civilizations were supported by very productive alluvial soils and thriving 3 40 Deserts irrigated farming. In the Americas, development came much later. But early native cultures in the Southwest boasted excellent farmers and today the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers are lifelines that support both agriculture and millions of people. An oasis is a location in an arid land where good water is available. Some oases are natural, such as river valleys, springs, or groundwater that can be brought to the surface by wells.
Strange as it may seem, water is the primary force at work sculpting landforms in arid lands. To the keen eye of the geomorphologist (scientists who study landforms), telltale signs of water’s work appear almost everywhere. Water is also the single most important factor in human settlement and land use in desert regions. For thousands of years, oasis sites have served as magnets to human settlement. For reasons to be discussed in Chapter 5, many early civilizations also emerged in desert oasis sites.
Deserts (Extreme Environments) by Charles F. Gritzner