There are a number of abiotic factors that have important impacts on the desert environment. Clearly, the most important of these is rainfall or, in some cases, other sources of precipitation such as fog, snow, or ice. Deserts are defined by their low mean rainfall, although it is just as important to measure the temporal and spatial variability in annual rainfall. High run-off from desert slopes is another factor that leads to high spatial patchiness in some deserts. This chapter emphasizes the large differences among deserts in ambient temperature (and seasonality) and how these differences affect the organisms that live there. It considers geology, particularly in terms of the effects on soils, which in turn is important for plant life and animal life.
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