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Desert Diary
Biology/Flow Sheet


The living part of our Chihuahuan Desert relies on a great web of life, where energy captured from the sun is shuffled, in its various forms, from one organism to another. The plants, eaters of sunlight, are fed on by the plant eaters, the herbivores. The herbivores, in turn, sustain the carnivores and so on until all usable energy is depleted.

Likewise, the material needs of organisms are passed on—nitrogen, phosphorus, iron, and a host more of elements that form the building blocks of wood, flesh, and bone, and that manufacture the molecules that process energy. Materials to be returned to soil and water, but unlike energy, to be recycled for as long as life remains.

Textbook flow sheets meant to diagram life look beautiful on paper—black and white and static. In real life, the system is forever in flux, never still. Plants and animals ebb and flow, with the mix never to repeat again. Our desert will never again be the way it was and will never again be the way it is.
pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.