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The Biology of Deserts$
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David Ward

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198732754

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198732754.001.0001

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Abiotic Factors

Abiotic Factors

(p.14) 2 Abiotic Factors
The Biology of Deserts

David Ward

Oxford University Press

Abiotic factors are the primary reason for the differentiation of deserts from other ecosystems. Fundamentally, it is the low rainfall that deserts experience that differentiate them from other habitats. Rainfall in deserts tends to fall in pulses, which can vary considerably in their magnitude and timing. An important change in rainfall that affects many deserts is the El Niño-Southern Oscillation effect that is associated with the unusually large warming of the ocean. Many deserts have very high spatial variation in geological substrates and, consequently, soil type. Saline soils are rather common in deserts. Stone substrates usually have relatively level gravel surfaces known as desert pavement. Rock desert landscapes normally have bare rock surfaces, with a huge pavement kept clear of sand and gravel by the wind. Fire is not considered as an important factor in desert ecosystems because fuel loads (created primarily by grasses) are generally too low.

Keywords:   rainfall pulses, geology, fluvial system, El Niño-Southern Oscillation, fog, run-off, temperature, soil nutrients, salinity, pan evaporation

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