Desert Ecosystem Lesson for Kids Video

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  • 0:04 What Defines a Desert?
  • 0:35 Hot Deserts
  • 1:18 Cold Deserts
  • 2:08 Plant and Animal Life
  • 3:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

Believe it or not, deserts are not just the hot, dry environments we see in movies with camels and cacti. In fact, some deserts are so cold that the ground stays frozen in ice. Learn about the different kinds of deserts and how plant and animal life survive in these extreme ecosystems.

What Defines a Desert?

Deserts are areas of land that are arid, or dry, and get less than 10 inches of rain per year. These areas can be covered by sand, rock, snow, and even ice. Additionally, they do not have a lot of plant life covering the land.

Deserts' ecosystems cover approximately 25% - 30% of the land on Earth. An ecosystem includes all the life in a particular environment or location. Deserts can be divided into two main types: hot and cold.

Hot Deserts

Hot deserts are warm year round and very hot in the summer. During the day, temperatures often reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In the evening, the temperatures drop sometimes below freezing. Much of the time rain does not fall, but when it does, it is only for a short amount of time. The ground is usually rocky or sandy.

Most of the hot deserts in the world are located just north and south of the equator, where it is the hottest. The largest hot desert is the Sahara Desert in northern Africa. The Sahara covers over 3 million square miles and has some areas that receive no rainfall for years. Other well-known hot deserts include the Arabian, Mohave, and Sonoran deserts.

Pink Coral Sand Dunes National Park in Utah is a small desert surrounded by a forest.
desert in utah

Cold Deserts

Cold deserts are cool year around with very cold temperatures in the winter. Temperatures in cold deserts are often below freezing. Heavy snows happen during the winter, with most of the rainfall happening during the spring months. The ground can be solid ice in colder temperatures and rocky or spongy soil in milder temperatures.

The cold deserts of the world are mostly located on the coasts near oceans and closer to the north and south poles. The largest cold desert, and the largest desert in the world, is the continent of Antarctica. This desert is over 5 million square miles and is the driest, coldest, and windiest place on earth. In fact, there are no people that live permanently in Antarctica due to the harsh conditions. Other cold deserts include the Gobi, Great Basin, and Namib Deserts.

Antarctica is a desert, but there are no camels or sand dunes.

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