MBGnet's Virtual 
Desert Biome

Cold Deserts

The main form of precipitation in a cold desert is snow -- but only 10 inches or less per year.

Cold Deserts of the World
Name Location Size Physical
Examples of
Plants &
Special Facts
Atacama Coasts of Peru and Chile 54,000 mi2
140,000 km2
Covered by sand dunes and pebbles. One of the driest areas on earth. Bunchgrass, Cardon Cactus, Tamaruga Trees

Lizards, Llama, Peruvian Fox, nesting area for many seabirds

Only a few thousand people (mostly farmers) live in the inland desert areas.

Large deposits of sodium nitrate found in the desert (sodium nitrate is used to make gunpowder)

Gobi Northern China and Southern Mongolia 450,000 mi2
1,200,000 km2
Covered by sandy soil and areas of small stones called "gobi." camel's thorn, grasses

bactrian bamel, gazelle, gerbil, jerboa, lizards, onager, wolf

Crossed by Genghis Khan in the early 13th century. Many nomads now settling on government-run farms.
Great Basin Western United States (Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah) 158,000 mi2
411,000 km2
Covered by sand, gravel, and clay.

Many moutains ranges, basins, and large expanses of salt flats.

greasewood, sagebrush, shadscale

bighorn sheep, jackrabbit, pocket mouse, poor-will, pronghorn antelope, sage thrasher, side-blotched lizard

Great Salt Lake located here.
Iranian Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan 150,000 mi2
390,000 km2
Covered by coarse gray soil, stony pavement, and salt flats. grasses, pistachio trees, shrubs

monitor lizard, onager, oryx, scorpion

World's largest salt flat located here.
Namib Coasts of Southwestern Africa 52,000 mi2
135,000 km2
Covered by sand dunes along the coast and gravel farther inland. aloe, bunchgrass, lichens, welwitschia

darkling beetle, fringe-toed lizard, golden mole, jackal, sidewinder, viper, web-footed gecko

Coast of the Namib Desert is world's greatest source of gemstones.
Takla Makan Western China 600,000 mi2
1,600,000 km2
Covered by sand dunes and rocky soil. grasses, shrubs

bactrian camel, jerboa, long-eared hedgehog, gazelle

The word "Takla Makan" means "place from which there is no return."

Crossed by Marco Polo in the 13th Century.

Turkestan Parts of the Middle East and Southwestern Russia 215,000 mi2
559,000 km2
Covered mostly by extensive stretches of sand dunes. alhagi shrub, saxaul tree, sedges, thick ground cover

desert tortoise, gazelle, gerbil, saiga antelope

Crossed by caravans following silk route from China in Europe in ancient times.

The great city of Samarkand, once a cultural and religious center of central Asia, was located here.