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Aquatic and Terrestrial ecosystems Name: Institution: Aquatic and Terrestrial ecosystems River systems essentially channel the world’s precipitation into surface water systems like lakes and seas. These river systems provide habitats for a vast range of biota, which often culminate in floodplain wetlands that are also regions of astonishing diversity…
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Aquatic and Terrestrial ecosystems Aquatic and Terrestrial ecosystems River systems essentially channel the world’s precipitation into surface water systems like lakes and seas. These river systems provide habitats for a vast range of biota, which often culminate in floodplain wetlands that are also regions of astonishing diversity. River systems are critical to most marine, and coastal environments, organisms and processes. Their fresh waters allow humans to infiltrate and dwell in the world’s most inhabitable regions such as deserts. Rivers are the pathways that exemplify ecological landscapes. The climate, as well as the characteristics of land surfaces, determines the hydrology, size, ecology and geomorphology of river systems. For instance, the Amazon River that accounts for at least 20 percent of the entire global river flow is an expansive river system that originates from regions with extremely high rates of rainfall. The contrast of such systems is rivers from desert regions, which receive less than 500 mm of rainfall per annum and which are mostly exceeded by the rate of evaporation. Within these regions (deserts) rivers sometimes stop flowing for long durations, in some instances even years. This paper will describe the river system in desert ecosystems, describing some notable plant and animal species within both ecosystems, as well as endangered species in the ecosystems. River systems in deserts have distinctive intrinsic properties such as variability and scarcity (Alexander, 1999). Description of the Ecosystems Deserts refer to terrestrial ecosystems that experience less than 500 mm of precipitation every year. These regions encompass arid, as well as semiarid regions in the world. At least 47 percent of the entire global land surface comprises of desert ecosystems such as dry humid areas, semiarid regions, arid and hyperarid zones. Many streams, as well as large rivers flow, either partly or wholly through arid regions. River systems within their dependent desert ecosystems create a gamut of variability. River systems within desert ecosystems have peculiar characteristics that make them quite fascinating. These properties include among others elements such as variability, scarcity and their intrinsic flood marked ecosystems. River systems within desert ecosystems demand attention because poor knowledge, as well as increasing human demands continues to demand attention with regard to river systems in deserts. The nature of Desert Rivers encompasses attributes such as constant change as humans continually apply pressure on the ecosystems. Desert Rivers do not bear exceptional landforms although their hydrology is more unpredictable than the hydrology of mesic rivers. In fact, most rivers that flow through desert ecosystems, for instance, Murray, Okavango and the Nile, stem from mesic regions (Barange, Field, Harris, Eileen, Hofmann, Perry & Werner, 2010). Species within the Ecosystems The Great Basin is the biggest enorheic watershed in the US and is renowned for its arid and wet conditions. The basin and range topography encompasses lakes, basins, rivers and the desert ecoregion of North America. The semi-arid region boosts of a range of plant and animal species. The most notable species in the desert ecosystem of the Great Basin include Pronghorns, desert cottontails and Single-leaf Pinyon. Pronghorns largely live in brush land and deserts and consume a wide array of plants, which mostly include toxic plants to domestic animals. Pronghorns or Antilocapra americana are artiodactyls mammals, which are endemic to the western and central regions of North America. Pronghorns significantly resemble antelopes and are the sole surviving member of the Antilocapridae family. Desert cottontail or Sylvilagus audubonii belongs to the Leporidae family and lives in relatively dry regions of the western US. The species is endemic in the dry semi-desert grasslands of the Great Basin and leads a social life among its peers. The desert cottontail lives in burrows constructed by other rodents instead of creating its own borrow. Single-leaf Pinyon or Pinus monophylla is a member or the pinyon pine group endemic to the Great Basin. Single-leaf Pinyon is the only one-needled pine in the world and occurs at moderate altitudes or semi-arid ecosystems (Keddy, 2010). The Batrachoseps campi or Inyo Mountain salamander is an endangered species endemic to the Great Basin regions of California. The Inyo Mountain salamander preys on small insects and is a member of the Plenthodontidae family found in temperate deserts such as Mojave Desert. The American White Pelican or Pelecanus erythrorhynchos is a massive aquatic bird found within the river systems of the Great Basin. The pelican is a member of the Pelecaniformes order and breeds in the interior of North America and moves to the southern coasts of Central America during winter. American White Pelicans live in colonies of hundreds of pairs and may exist for nearly 16 years. Chasmistes cujus or the cui-ui is a massive sucker fish found in the Great Basin and feeds on zooplankton. The life span is approximately 40 years. Although the cui-uis are not endangered, they are some of the few members of the genus in existence. Cui-uis are potamodromous and ascend the Truckee River in April to spawn. Curly-leaf pondweed or Potamogeton crispus refers to a species of aquatic plants introduced to the Great Basin. The rhizomatous herb produces flattened stems branching approximately one meter long. The plant’s turions and fruits develop and germinate creating new plants in winter (Barange, Field, Harris, Eileen, Hofmann, Perry & Werner, 2010). The Lahontan cutthroat trout or Oncorhynchus clarki henshawi is the largest cutthroat subspecies in the Great Basin water system. The endangered species is a member of the Salmonidae family and is protected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In summary, since climate dictates river flow, desert ecosystems influence the responses of dependent ecosystems such as rivers. Rivers, on the other hand, relatively alter the features of deserts by creating water masses in conventionally dry regions. This relationship ensures that although deserts are harsh regions, they are not necessarily inhabitable (Keddy, 2010). Since hydrology also plays a critical role in the character rivers, desert ecosystems dictate river flow by influencing hydrology. References Alexander, D. E. (1999). Encyclopedia of environmental science. New York: Springer. Barange, M., Field, J. G., Harris, R. P., Eileen, E., Hofmann, E. E., Perry, R. I., & Werner, F. (2010). Marine ecosystems and global change. New York: Oxford University Press.  Keddy, P. A. (2010). Wetland ecology: Principles and conservation. New York: Cambridge University Press. Read More
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