Wednesday, 4 March 2015

OUGD503 Responsive Brief 02 Collaborative Practice Eco System Research

For the ecosystem research I thought the best way to get al of the relevant information was to separate each ecosystem into aspects to cover: Conditions, Landscape Type, vegetation and animals.

Deserts are hot during the day and cold at night. Animals and plants that live in deserts have adapted to survive in these harsh conditions.

Characteristics and climate of deserts

See where deserts are found on this biomes map.
Deserts have extreme temperatures. During the day the temperature may reach 50°C, when at night it may fall to below 0°C. Deserts have less than 250 mm of rainfall per year. The rain can be unreliable. Most deserts are found between 20° and 35° north and south of the equator.
Climate graph for the Sahara Desert
Climate graph for the Sahara Desert
The Sahara is the largest desert, covering 9 million km2.
There are three factors which form desert areas:
  1. the presence of high pressure, creating cloud-free conditions
  2. cold ocean currents
  3. mountain ranges to create rain shadows



A detailed image of a cactus growing in California.
The cactus has adapted to the desert environment
Plants and animals need to cope with the dry conditions. Compared to other biomes, deserts have limited numbers of plants and animals that are able to survive.
Some plants are succulents and store the water in leaves, stems or roots. One example is thecactus.
Other ways plants tolerate the dry conditions include:
  • long roots to tap into the water deep underground
  • short life cycles - a plant or seed could remain dormant until the rains come

Animal survival

  • Some may burrow to escape the heat.
  • Nocturnal animals sleep during the day, sheltering to help prevent dehydration.
  • Animals may hibernate during temperature highs or lows.

Like all deserts, the Sahara harbors a relatively sparse community of wild plants, with the highest concentrations occurring along the northern and southern margins and near the oases and drainages. It has imposed adaptations on the plants. For instance, near wadis and oases, plants such as date palms, tamarisks and acacia put down long roots to reach life-sustaining water. In the more arid areas, the seeds of flowering plants sprout quickly after a rain, putting down shallow roots, and completing their growing cycle and producing seeds in a matter of days, before the soil dries out. The new seeds may lie dormant in the dry soil for years, awaiting the next rainfall to repeat the cycle.

Belonging to the Cactaceae family, this plant gives out colorful shoots and can grow up to 7 cm.
This succulent plant (Lophophora williamsii) survives the harsh conditions of the Sahara by holding back water for extended periods of time. This it does with the help of its thickly built stems.
Another survival strategy of the African peyote cactus is cutting down on water loss, which occurs through evaporation. Its leaves are reduced to spines, and this helps decrease the rate at which the plant loses moisture in the air.
It is believed that the native tribes of the desert used the cactus in their spiritual rituals. The plant contains mescaline -- an alkaloid that is known to trigger hallucinations.
The cactus blooms yellow and pink flowers.

Read more at Buzzle:

Also known as the shittah tree, the red acacia (Acacia seyal) is often found in the damp valleys of the Sahara.
The Red Acacia is a thorny tree with barks bearing a reddish shade, or a shade that is pale greenish in color.
The tree bears feathery leaves, which are believed to protect the bark of the tree from dry winds.
An important identification feature of this tree is the two thorn-like projections, which grow at the base of the leaves.
The Red Acacia is also known for its bright yellow blossoms, which appear in the form of a cluster.
Medical uses of the tree may include reducing cholesterol levels, treating inflammation of the throat, and stomach inflammation.
Read more at Buzzle:

Suited for the Mediterranean climate, the common fig (Ficus carica) tree is also listed among the plants of the Sahara.
The tree is capable of thriving in soil that is nutritionally poor and is tolerant to seasonal drought, thanks to its deep-rooted system.
The reproduction of the fig tree depends on the pollination carried out by a certain species of wasps.
Read more at Buzzle:

The doum palm (Hyphaene thebaica) is another plant of the Sahara Desert that grows along the Nile River. It bears an edible red-orange oval fruit, whose taste resembles that of gingerbread, and thus the tree is also called "gingerbread tree."
The importance of the doum palm can be gauged from its versatile uses; no portion of this plant goes to waste. The white nut of the plant's fruit is made into buttons by the natives. Then comes the rind of the fruit, which is used in preparing molasses, sweetmeats, and cakes. Lastly, the leaves of the palm are used for making paper and mats.
The doum palm has medical uses as well. The nut of its fruit is grounded to dress wounds and an infusion of the fruit is believed to help manage high blood pressure.
Read more at Buzzle:

Desert Grass

Needed for the largest desert mammals to survive, they collect water on leaves which is the main source of water for the Screwhorn antelope.


Camels, most often associated with the Sahara, were introduced to the desert around 200 A.D. Their advantages over the horses they replaced include soft feet that are aligned so that they can move quickly and easily through sand and their ability to go for up to 17 days without food or water.
deathstalker scorpion
The venomous deathstalker scorpion can be 4 inches in length.
Credit: Ester Inbar
Rodents, snakes and scorpions thrive in the desert environment. The desert is home to the deathstalker scorpion, which can be nearly 4 inches (10 cm) in length. Its dangerous venom contains large amounts of agitoxin and scyllatoxin.
Among the 40-plus species of rodents in the Sahara is the jerboa, related to the mouse, rat and squirrel. To keep cool, the jerboa burrows underneath the desert's sands to more humid soils.
The Addax nasomaculatus, also known as the screwhorn antelope, is the Sahara's largest indigenous mammal. It travels in small herds throughout the Western Sahara, Mauritania and Chad. Instead of drinking water, it sucks moisture from the desert grasses and bushes. Its oversized hooves make the addax adept at moving through the Sahara's loose sand.
Jackals and several types of hyenas are among the carnivores that roam the Sahara. Weighing less than 3 pounds (1.4 kg), the Mall Fennec Fox is another carnivore that makes its home in tunnels in the sand dunes during the day and comes out at night to prey on the rodents.


Also known by the less dignifying (but perhaps more descriptive) name “dung beetle,” the scarab beetle was a holy symbol to the ancient Egyptians and has some impressive adaptability. Dung beetles make creative use of animal feces. They are able to subsist almost entirely on animal waste. There are several ways that scarabs can make use of the dung they find, depending on how flexible they feel about their living situations. Dung beetles can roll dung until it makes a ball shape and then push it home, or simply dig a new burrow next to a heap of dung to live in. Some dung beetles just burrow into the dung they find and make it into a home, chewing their way out when they get hungry. Nom nom!

This could be a species  that would need a herbivore in the environment to be unlocked in the game.

Saharan desert Ant

Well adapted to the extreme conditions of their habitat, Sahara desert ants can tolerate surface temperatures of 60 °C (140 °F) or higher for short periods, making them one of the most heat-tolerant groups of insects known. Long legs allow them to move rapidly and elevate their bodies above the scorched sand and salt-pan terrain as they forage for dead insects. The high temperatures of the Sahara preclude navigation through the use of the pheromone trails that aid many ant species in returning to their nests; the volatile chemicals in the pheromones would evaporate far too quickly in the heat for them to demarcate routes reliably.

Death Stalker Scorpion

For those living in the wild, the main source of the diet is from crickets. When they are in captivity they may be fed that, grasshoppers, or meal worms. They will eat what they can get though when they are in the wild. They do prefer living things though to those they come upon that are already dead. (would rely on smaller insects being in the eco system first)

Jeboa (rodents)

Jerboas are nocturnal.[5] During the heat of the day they shelter in burrows. At night they leave the burrows due to the cooler temperature of their environment. They dig the entrances to their burrow near plant life, especially along field borders. During the rainy season they make tunnels in mounds or hills to reduce the risk of flooding. In the summer, jerboas occupying holes plug the entrance to keep out hot air and, some researchers speculate, predators.[1] In most cases burrows have an emergency exit that ends just below the surface or opens at the surface, but is not strongly obstructed. This allows the jerboa to quickly escape predators. Related jerboas often create four different types of burrows. A temporary, summer day burrow is used for cover while hunting during the daylight. They have a second, temporary burrow used for hunting at night.

Slender Mongoose

The slender mongoose is also known as the black-tailed mongoose, due to the fact that the tip of its tail is black. It basically feeds on insects, but its diet also includes lizards, rodents, snakes, and birds. It can also kill and eat a venomous snake, but it does so only when threatened. It is also very good at climbing trees as compared to a normal mongoose, which is why birds are quite a favorite in its diet.
Read more at Buzzle:


Horned Viper

Sand Vipers can grow up to 50 cm in length. They venture out only during the night, and usually bury themselves in the sand during the day. The horned viper is venomous and hemotoxic. That means its venom will cause tissue damage, along with destroying red blood cells. The bite itself may not be fatal, but is definitely very painful. Prolonged exposure to high levels of hemotoxins is fatal. The horned viper is now an endangered species, due to a constantly degrading environment. It is not truly known why they have horns on top of their eyes. Speculations are - the horns are for protection for the eyes against the sand, camouflage or navigation through the sand.
Read more at Buzzle:

Egyptian Tortoise (endangered)

The Egyptian Tortoise is one of the world's smallest tortoises. The largest specimen ever described measured 128 mm, but most are smaller. Females are larger than males - most males are less than 90 mm.

This is a desert animal, living under the most arid conditions tolerated by any tortoise species in the world. It is found in both sandy and fairly rocky habitats. The small size and the light coloration is an adaptation to the arid environment - the size allows a fast thermoregulation and the minimal black pigmentation minimizes heat absorption from the sun's rays. Color is considerably variable and appears to coincide with general soil color from the various regions where the animals come from. Thus, dark animals are thought to come from Gebel Akhdar in Libya, where vegetation cover is densest in the specie's range. Pinkish specimens are thought to come from areas of reddish soil in Cyrenaica.
The Egyptian Tortoise is a herbivore. Feeding on the leaves and flowers of the plants that survive in its harsh desert environment. The species is most active during warm times of year (February-April) and (September-October) and is inactive during months when the weather is very cold or very hot. During cooler months the tortoises are active in the middle of the day. In hot months, it is only active sporadically during the early morning and late afternoon, spending most of the day in the cover of bushes or in rodent burrows.



Nubian Bustard (near threatened)

A sub-species of the bustard family, the Nubian Bustard male birds are quite bigger as compared to the females. They weigh over 10 lbs, while the females average just around 6 lbs. The males are around 30 inches in length, while the females are around 25 inches or so. They mainly feed on insects, but in times of need, would also suffice their hunger with seeds other such food. Due to habitat loss, their numbers have dwindled, and they are considered to be near-threatened.
Read more at Buzzle:


Famous due to the irony of being a 'flightless' bird, the ostrich compensates its inability to fly by, being one of the fastest land animals. An ostrich can run at an average of 40 miles per hour. Ostriches are the largest birds in the world (and they lay extraordinarily large eggs!), and different breeds of ostriches are found in various parts of the Sahara desert. Their hooves are cloven with only two toes, which makes it very easy for them to travel long distances. Their legs are intensely strong, and they use them to kick out at predators, when in danger. On top of that, they have excellent eyesight and hearing abilities, which become their prime defensive mechanism. They rarely stray away from watering holes, and often act as guards to nearby grazing herds. They feed mostly on grass and bushes, sometimes also turning to small animals.

The Spotted Eagle Owl (Least Concern) (prey on the fennec fox) (no preditors, very common)

is one of the smallest of the Eagle Owls. On average they weigh around one quarter of the weight of the largest of the Eagle Owl family, the Eurasian Eagle Owl.
The Spotted Eagle Owl is found throughout most Africa south of the Sahara, with the exception of very dense forests. Up until 1999, it was considered that there were two subspecies of Spotted Eagle Owl found in Africa, but one of the subspecies, (Bubo africanus cinerascens), is now treated as a separate species, the Vermiculated Eagle Owl (Bubo cinerascens). In Africa there is now only one subspecies, (Bubo africanus africanus), and there is a second subspecies, (Bubo africanus milesi), is that is found found in the southern western parts of Arabian peninsula.
The Spotted Eagle Owls hunt predominantly at dusk, spending most of the day concealed in trees, on rock ledges or even in burrows of other animals. They will take a large variety of prey, from small mammals, birds in flight, reptiles, scorpions, crabs, frogs, bats & insects. They are often seen hunting around streetlights in towns, which is where insects, & consequently bats hunting insects, tend to congregate at dusk. When preying on insects, it is necessary for the owls to eat a very large number, as they are quite small & take a lot of effort & energy to catch. Despite this, mainy Spotted Eagle Owls live on a diet of predominantly insects. When preying on mammals, the Spotted Eagle Owls will usually use the technique of still hunting, often catching the prey on the ground with a single steep swoop from their perch. If the prey is energetic, the Spotted Eagle Owls will often chase the prey for considerable distances. Investigations into the birds that the Spotted Eagle Owls prey on show a large variety, including terns, hornbills & even Lanner Falcons (Falco biarmicus). Basically, the Spooted Eagle Owls are very versatile when it comes to prey, feeding off anything they are able to catch, which enables them to survive fluctuations in prey populations.
Spotted Eagle Owls usually mate for life. They usually nest on the ground or in disused nests in trees, though they have also been known to lay eggs on window ledges of large buildings. When nesting & incubating the eggs, most of the defence of the nest site is done mainly vocally, rather than by attacking. Their breeding season starts in July and lasts until late January or early February (as they live in the Southern Hemisphere, this corresponds to late winter/early summer breeding seasons of the owls in the Northern Hemisphere). 2 to 4 eggs are normally laid, and the female does all of the incubation, rarely leaving the nest, except to feed on prey brought to it by the male. Incubation takes around 30 to 32 days. At around 7 weeks from hatching, the young are able to fly competently, often following their parents calling loudly for food. The young are dependant on their parents for up to 5 weeks after learning to fly.
Given sufficient food in their territory, Spotted Eagle Owls may start breeding at 1 year old. As with all of the birds of prey, they suffer fairly high mortality rates in their first year of life, but if they survive that first year, then they are likely to live around 11-12 years in the wild..
Spotted Eagle Owls do not have a tendency to avoid populatd areas, and many of their deaths are as a consequence. Quite a lot of their hunting is done by the sides of roads & many are killed by collisions with vehicles. Another cause of deaths is flying into, or becoming trapped by, fences & overhead cables. But by far the largest cause of deaths of Spotted Eagle Owls in Africa is pesticides, many of which are banned in Europe and America, such as DDT. Their natural predators include amongst other things, the Osprey.

Dorcas Gazelle (Vulnerable) 

The Dorcas Gazelle is another exceptionally beautiful animal found in the Sahara. It is the most common species of gazelle, and stands up to 65 cm tall, and weighs around 50 lbs. It is also known as the Ariel Gazelle. Its diet consists of leaves from trees and bushes. An interesting fact about the Dorcas gazelle is its use of 'stotting', which is an impulse jump it makes when a predator closes in. It does this to demotivate the predator by showing off its fitness, while also warning the others around. The dorcas gazelle is considered near threatened and vulnerable. It is known to reach swift running speeds.
Read more at Buzzle:

Addax Antelope (critically endangered)

The Addax Antelope is one of the most beautiful animals in the world. They are flat-footed antelopes that can easily traverse the sandy landscape of the Sahara. This antelope is classified as critically endangered, with an estimated 500 of them left in the wilderness. Reasons for this include heavy poaching for their meat and leather, along with deteriorating habitat due to human encroachment and global warming. They are rather slow because of their size and their flat hooves, making it all the more difficult for them to run from predators. This also makes them a particularly easy target for 

Dromedary Camel (none)

When one thinks of a desert, the next thing that comes to mind is a camel. There are two major types of camels found in the world, Bactrian and Dromedary camels. The Dromedary camel, which is said to be of Arabian origin, is the main Saharan camel. The interesting thing about these camels is that they store fat in their humps, and not water. They can drink up to 100 liters of water in 10 minutes flat! But they are the favorite domesticated animal among the Saharan people, as they have great strength, endurance, and can go without water and food for a very long time.
Read more at Buzzle:

Predators and Carnivores 

Saharan Cheetah (critically endangered)

These desert relatives of the cheetah are now staring into the abyss of extinction. Less than 250 adults survive today, mostly in central and western Sahara, and the Sudanian Savannah. In contrast to other cheetahs, this subspecies is a bit smaller, and has very faintly-colored coats, which are also shorter than their counterparts. Spots on the coat are centered around the back, are quite faint, and may be absent. This subspecies hunts more in the dark than regular cheetahs, one of their many behavioral adaptations to survive the harsh climate of the largest desert in the world. Another important adaptation is that they can sustain for much longer periods of time without water, which they draw from the blood of their prey.
Read more at Buzzle:

Fennec Fox (least Concern)

Since the name of this species comes from the Arabic word for fox - fanak - the name of this animal actually means 'fox fox'. The fennec fox is the smallest canid (members of the dog family, including wolves, jackals and other foxes) in the world. Like the rhim gazelle, the coats of fennec foxes are very pale, helping them reflect most of the sunlight that falls on them. Their kidneys are also adapted for deserts. They are designed to minimize water loss from their body. In addition to its naturally strong sense of smell, the fennec fox relies more on its unbelievable hearing. Its ears are so sensitive that it can track its underground prey by sound! They can even climb trees to get to young birds and eggs, if the tree has low-lying branches.
Read more at Buzzle:

Sahara Apharius (river required) (critically endangered)

The species is endemic to the Oued Saoura basin, and was once thought to occur throughout it. It is now only known from one remnant population (Oued Saoura basin near Mazzer) in the Sahara desert, having known to have disappeared from numerous other localities (Oued Zousfana basin at Igli, El Ouata and Kerzaz - all in the greater Saoura basin). Numerous attempts have been made to record from these localities and no specimens were found. The major threats are the introduced Gambusia species, which currently outnumber Aphanius 100 to one. Excessive groundwater extraction (for agriculture), drought and water pollution are also threatening the species. Its survival in the wild is unlikely, but a small captive breeding program is under way. It has an extent of occurrence of less than 100 km² and an area of occupancy of less than 10 km².

Okay, so it took a long time to create this list concisely and structure the animal choices so that they interlock as predator and prey creating a feasible eco system. just goes to show what a delicate balance it is. After our meeting we decided on the eco systems that we wanted to design and this was one of them, so there is no need to research any further (the other two were the research subjects of Roz and Fran.

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