If deserts have naturally occurring cacti that are in more-or-less equilibrium and balance (their natural state), I’m not sure why you would want to plant more. An ecosystem that is undisturbed contains as many (or as few) plants and animals as it can support; more or fewer would upset that balance.
As “rigibson” mentioned, trying to meddle with the balance of nature is tricky business, and in most cases, inadvisable.
However, I think it is worth mentioning here what roles, precisely, cacti play in desert ecology. The vastness of their utility is certainly underappreciated by most.
Cacti furnish homes, water, food, and as most plants do, retain soil and prevent erosion. There are many cacti, which despite threatening appearances, feed rodents, birds, jackrabbits, bats, and insects. If you were to observe a natural increase in the cactus population, then it is safe to assume that there would be a subsequent increase in the numbers of the animals that subsist in/on them.
The problem comes when, by introducing any organism in large numbers, there are unforeseen consequences such as soil nutrient depletion. some animals need to command large territories, and as such would not benefit from a surplus of neighbors–so the extra cactus habitat could actually foil birds and rodents who compete for the same space and resources.
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