The Popular Belief about a Desert and it Being a Tropical Garden
Many people who live in areas surrounded by forests and hills believe deserts to be vast areas of sand where no rain falls and therefore, it is hot and dry. In such circumstances, there is hardly any vegetation to be found in such areas. However, this definition is not entirely correct. People who closely study it can find desert to be a beautiful place and is a home to a variety of people who live under hot and dry conditions. In a desert, the ground is hardly ever covered with grass, plants or trees. Rain in the desert are also rare, but whenever it does rain the desert flowers bloom and the desert looks no less than a tropical garden.
At times, the flat, unchanging wasteland of dry sand gives way to mountains and hills. It may have an oasis. An oasis is a small patch of green island with a well of water, allowing the plants and trees to grow better. A desert may be hot like the ‘Thar Desert’ or cold like ‘Ladakh’. But, usually it is believed that any place that has little or no water and vegetation is called a desert. There are some deserts which have absolutely no water. In such places, strong winds blow and raise sand in mounds. Such sand mountains are called ‘sand dunes’. These sands dunes keep moving and shifting in the desert. Plants, however, can hardly sustain themselves in such weather.
Sustainability in the Desert
Living things are dependent on water for their sustainance. Therefore, very few plants and animals are found in a desert. The few that are to be found have adapted themselves to the conditions in a desert. They have developed an ability to require less water for their existence. Camel, ‘the ship of the desert’ can do without water for several days. This is possible because camels can drink a lot of water in one go and they lose very little water as they hardly sweat. Humans are required to constantly sweat in high temperature in order to maintain their body temperature.
The Smaller Desert Animals and Plants
The smaller desert animals only come out of their burrows during night and avoid the heat during the day. Most of them either eat other animals or plants and meet their minimum water requirement from the moisture present in the meat and the plant juices, respectively. Desert plants, too, likewise adapt themselves to the desert climate. Cactus, for instance, can store water in its thick stems.
Absence of the Protective Blanket
In humid climates, the moisture in the atmosphere casts a protective blanket on the earth. In deserts, this protective blanket is not there because of occasional rains. Therefore, the deserts heat up rapidly during the day and cool off rapidly during the night. However, despite the harshness of the climate, the deserts are an important part of nature.
Word Meaning in English
Patch a small area
Rewarding giving reward
Tropical hot climate
Wasteland a barren place
Oasis a spring of fresh water
Heaps a large amount of
Mounds big heaps
Ability skill or competence
Retain to hold secure
Retain to hold secure
Burrow move underground by digging
Humid containing moisture
Dense thick, difficult to penetrate
(NCERT Pages 16 and 17)
- From the first paragraph
(i) Pick out two phrases which describe the desert as most people believe it is.
Ans. “The popular belief is that it is an endless stretch of sand where no rain falls and therefore, no vegetation grows.”
(ii) Pick out two phrases which describe the desert as specialists see it,
Which do you think is an apt description and why?
Ans. “The desert can be a beautiful place. It is the home of a variety of people, animals and plants that have learnt to live under very hot and dry conditions.” The apt description of the desert has been given by the specialists. The popular belief is based on hearsay.
People may have or have not been to the desert and studied its climatic occurrences before having formed this opinion. The specialists, on the other hand, have looked at the entire ecology in the desert before stating their beliefs.
- The phrases on the left in the following box occur in the text. Match each of them with a phrase on the right.
(i) an endless stretch of sand • fertile place with water and plants in a desert
(ii) waterless and without shelter • not visible because the
(iii) an oasis • nothing but sand as far as one can see
(iv) hidden by a cover of grass • no water and no shade
(i) an endless stretch of sand • nothing but sand as far
(ii) waterless and without shelter • no water and no shade
(iii) an oasis • fertile place with water and plants in a desert
(iv) hidden by a cover • not visible because the grass is thick
CHECK (NCERT Page 19)
- A camel can do without water for days together. What is the reason given in the text?
Ans. As per the text, a camel can survive without water for several days because it does not sweat much. Unlike humans, a camel does not need to regulate its body temperature through sweating. Therefore, it loses less water.
Also, the camel can consume a greater quantity of water in a go.
- How do the smaller desert animals fulfil their need for water?
Ans. The smaller desert animals remain in their burrows during the day. Thereby, they avoid the exposure to heat which could result in loss of water. Furthermore, they consume other animals or plants and the moisture from meat and plant juices, respectively supplements their need for water.
- In a desert the temperature rises during the day and falls rapidly at night. Why?
Ans. In a desert the temperature rises during the day and falls rapidly at night because of the absence of moisture in the air.
The moisture in the air usually acts as a protective blanket and protects the Earth. However, in the deserts this is not the case. Therefore, the rapid rise and fall in the temperature.
Exercises (NCERT Page 19)
Do the following activities in groups.
- Describe a desert in your own way. Write a paragraph and read it aloud to your classmates.
Ans. A desert is a large area of barren land where rains hardly occur. The scarcity of water makes the land infertile, thereby making the scope for vegetation limited. A desert is also characterised by harsh climatic conditions like extremely hot temperature, rapid rise and fall of temperature during day and night and so on. The harsh weather conditions make the habitat hostile for animal and human existence
The real beauty of desert is the ship of the desert, the camel. The camel can survive and sustain itself easily in the extreme weather conditions of the desert. The cactus is another wonder found in the desert. The thick stems of the cactus can store water for a long time. The camel and the cactus are the best examples of how natural life can adapt itself to adversities.
- Go to the library and collect information about the lifestyle of people in desert areas-their foods, clothes, work, social customs etc. Share this information with the group.
Ans. The people living in deserts usually lead a nomadic life. They move from one place to another in search of water. In places where water is found, these nomads irrigate the land and set-up their tents.
Once the water depletes in that area, these people move along with their cattle and other household goods to another place where water could be found.
The people living in deserts, therefore, are usually cattle bearers who also do some vegetation.
Questions and Answers
Very Short Answer Type Questions
- What is the most popular definition of a desert?
Ans. A stretch of land with little or no water and vegetation is called a desert.
- When can one come across a beautiful and rewarding sight in the desert?
Ans. One comes across a rewarding sight in the desert whenever it rains. Though rare, during rains desert flowers bloom and the desert looks no less than a tropical garden.
- Do you think a desert is only a flat, unchanging wasteland of dry sand?
Ans. No, a desert is not only a flat, unchanging wasteland of dry sand. It also has other natural elements like mountains, hills and oasis.
- What is an oasis?
Ans. An oasis is a small patch of land in the middle of the desert which has a spring of water. It allows plants and trees to grow better.
- What are ‘sand dunes’?
Ans, In deserts where there is no water at all strong winds blow piling heaps of sand. Such piles or mounds where sand gets deposited are called ‘sand dunes’.
- Give an example each of a hot and a cold desert.
Ans. The ‘Thar’ is an example of a hot desert and ‘Ladakh’ is an example of a cold desert.
Short Answer Type Questions
- Discuss a unique feature of the desert plants and animals.
Ans. The desert plants and animals have the ability to require less water. Unlike the plants and animals in humid or other climates, the desert plants and animals have adapted themselves to the climatic conditions and the scarcity of water in the deserts, thereby surviving in adverse conditions.
- Why do human beings sweat?
Ans. The human beings sweat in order to keep their body temperature constant. In hot climates, they are unable to stand the high body temperature, and thus sweat. This cools their body and regulates their temperature. This is also one of the reasons why human being’s need for water is much more.
- How do the cactus plants manage to sustain itself in the desert?
Ans. Cactus plants manage to store water in their thick stems. Their roots lie very close to the surface of the ground and are quick to absorb moisture from the rains that occasionally occur in the deserts. Cactus plants have thus, adapted themselves to the dry weather in the deserts.
Long Answer Type Question
How do the desert plants and animals combat the scarcity of water in deserts?
Ans. The desert plants and animals learn to adapt themselves to the climatic conditions of the desert and thereby require less water than most plants and animals. Some plants have the capacity to store in their stems, roots and other parts excess water. Also, they constantly suck moisture from the ground. The desert animals, too, are able to consume and store more water. Animals like camels can survive without water for days. The smaller animals, on the other hand, face this adversity by not exposing themselves to heat during the day. Also, they eat other smaller animals from whose meat they could gather moisture.
Value Based Question
Why do you think deserts are an important part of nature’s great plan?
Ans. A large portion of the Earth is covered by deserts. The dry patches of land with no water or vegetation too have a purpose to serve. If nothing else, deserts remind us of the beauty of other places with which God has blessed human beings.
Just like it is impossible to understand the significance of light in the absence of darkness, similarly the beauty of nature could be appreciated by understanding barrenness as another alternative.
Nonetheless, the natural landscapes of deserts too are a thing of beauty.