The sun beats down relentlessly all day long, and the heat is stifling. The mercury drops at night. The soil is poor. There is very little rain, and plants have to take advantage of any that does fall.
When Water is Scarce: Some Like It Hot
Dryland conditions don’t occur just in traditional deserts – they are also found at high altitudes, in coastal areas and where temperatures are very low. There are many different arid habitats around the globe, but their common feature is that they receive very little annual rainfall. Drylands of all types cover almost half of the planet’s land surface.
One Greenhouse, Two Continents
The species you see here are from the Americas and Africa. Cacti are native to the Americas, from southern Canada to Patagonia, while Africa is home to an incredible variety of succulents.
Plants provide food, shelter and building materials for many different animals and human communities. Drylands are home to millions of people, their lives made possible by the plants that are perfectly adapted to these regions. This fragile balance is threatened, however, by soil erosion and degradation, which are partly responsible for expanding deserts in many countries. This process is called desertification.