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The vegetation and low animal diversity of this biome is closely related to this low and unpredictable precipitation. Very dry deserts lack perennial vegetation that lives from one year to the next; instead, many plants are annuals that grow quickly and reproduce when rainfall does occur, then they die. Many other plants in these areas are characterized by having a number of adaptations that conserve water, such as deep roots, reduced foliage, and water-storing stems ( [link] ). Seed plants in the desert produce seeds that can be in dormancy for extended periods between rains. Adaptations in desert animals include nocturnal behavior and burrowing.

 This photo shows a sandy desert dotted with scrubby bushes. An ocotillo plant dominates the picture. It has long, thin unbranched stems that grow straight up from the base of the plant and radiate out slightly. The plant has no leaves.
To reduce water loss, many desert plants have tiny leaves or no leaves at all. The leaves of ocotillo ( Fouquieria splendens ), shown here in the Sonora Desert near Gila Bend, Arizona, appear only after rainfall, and then are shed.

Chaparral

The chaparral is also called the scrub forest and is found in California, along the Mediterranean Sea, and along the southern coast of Australia ( [link] ). The annual rainfall in this biome ranges from 65 cm to 75 cm (25.6–29.5 in), and the majority of the rain falls in the winter. Summers are very dry and many chaparral plants are dormant during the summertime. The chaparral vegetation, shown in [link] , is dominated by shrubs and is adapted to periodic fires, with some plants producing seeds that only germinate after a hot fire. The ashes left behind after a fire are rich in nutrients like nitrogen that fertilize the soil and promote plant regrowth.

 Photo depicts a landscape with many shrubs, dormant grass, a few trees, and mountains in the background.
The chaparral is dominated by shrubs. (credit: Miguel Vieira)

Temperate grasslands

Temperate grasslands are found throughout central North America, where they are also known as prairies; they are also in Eurasia, where they are known as steppes ( [link] ). Temperate grasslands have pronounced annual fluctuations in temperature with hot summers and cold winters. The annual temperature variation produces specific growing seasons for plants. Plant growth is possible when temperatures are warm enough to sustain plant growth and when ample water is available, which occurs in the spring, summer, and fall. During much of the winter, temperatures are low, and water, which is stored in the form of ice, is not available for plant growth.

Annual precipitation ranges from 25 cm to 75 cm (9.8–29.5 in). Because of relatively lower annual precipitation in temperate grasslands, there are few trees except for those found growing along rivers or streams. The dominant vegetation tends to consist of grasses and some prairies sustain populations of grazing animals [link] . The vegetation is very dense and the soils are fertile because the subsurface of the soil is packed with the roots and rhizomes (underground stems) of these grasses. The roots and rhizomes act to anchor plants into the ground and replenish the organic material (humus) in the soil when they die and decay.

 This photo shows a bison, which is dark brown in color with an even darker head. The hind part of the animal has short fur, and the front of the animal has longer, curly fur.
The American bison ( Bison bison ), more commonly called the buffalo, is a grazing mammal that once populated American prairies in huge numbers. (credit: Jack Dykinga, USDA Agricultural Research Service)

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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