Sonoran Desert

CD Format: $150.00

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As an ecosystem abundant with examples of adaptations and co-evolution, the Sonoran Desert offers many opportunities for students to see interdependence in action. The variations in water conservation strategies that have helped the flora and fauna of this American desert thrive provide unique and interesting studies of how environmental pressures shape the direction of change over time. Students can readily see how abiotic factors such as light, nutrients and moisture impact the development and growth of plant tissues. Surface-area-to-volume ratios can determine an organism’s ability to survive in low moisture and a wide range of daily temperatures. Important cycles such as photoperiodism and rainfall directly affect organisms’ gene regulation and their response to the environment. Phototropic responses such as plants’ turning their leaves parallel to the sun’s rays or closing their flowers during the heat of the day demonstrate to students behavioral response and survival. Interdependence between populations of organisms, and between organisms and their environment, shapes the outcomes of natural selection.  From the traditional use of prickly pear juice by Native Americans to the current popularization of agave syrup, desert plants have a rich ethnobotanical history that belies the seemingly stingy landscape in which they grow. Biodiversity leads to ecosystem stability because resource partitioning is occurring within an intricate web of overlapping niches where subtle shifts in limiting factors can be endured. However, the impact of humans on this fragile, slow-growing environment has already resulted in some unrecoverable damage.

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