The goal of this chapter is to delineate how abiotic conditions, regional processes, and species interactions influence species diversity at local scales in drylands. Th... Academic Article uri icon


  • Deserts are traditionally perceived as relatively simple ecosystems harboring low species diversity. Yet increasing evidence suggests that desert communities can be highly diverse and complex. To our knowledge the only systematic analysis of the relative diversity in desert versus nondesert communities was compiled by Polis (1991a). These data suggest that patterns differ widely among taxonomic groups. In some cases, deserts support high diversity, comparable to or even higher than nonarid areas (see Polis 1991b). For example, while avian (Wiens 1991) and anuran (Woodward and Mitchell 1991) diversities are low compared with other biomes, desert annual plants show extremely high species diversity (Inouye 1991). Ants, succulent plants, lizards, scorpions, and tenebrionid beetles also have relatively high diversity in deserts (Polis 1991a–c, Wiens 1991). But, while very high …

publication date

  • January 1, 2005