Abiotic factors - the parts of the ecosystem that are non-living. Abiotic factors play a major role in the environment and the abiotic factors that are specifically in the Sahara Desert are temperature, bodies of water, rainfall, and soil.
The Sahara Desert was deemed as a climatic desert about 5 million years ago. Ever since the Pliocene Epoch, the general climate of the Sahara has become much more humid and dry. Over time, the surface reflectivity of the Sahara has increased, and the evapotranspiration (the process of transferring water from the land to the atmosphere through the evaporation and transpiration of soil and plants) has reduced.
The dry subtropical climate in the north and the dry tropical climate in the south are the most apparent throughout the Sahara. The dry subtropical climate is filled with cool winters and hot summers, whereas the dry tropical climate is filled with a dry mild winter, a hot and humid springtime, and a rainy season in the summer.
In the dry subtropical regions up north, the annual daily temperature average 20 degrees celsius and the winters average around 13 degrees celsius. The summers get quite hot, but the temperatures remain relatively consistent throughout the entire year. A common aspect of the Sahara are the breezy winds that carry through in mid-spring, which are nice enough to cool off any hot day.
In the dry tropical regions down south, the climate is regularly impacted by the continental subtropical air mass and the maritime tropical air mass. The annual daily temperature averages at 17.5 degrees celsius. The temperature for the cold months are similar to that of the northern regions, but absolute lows have been recorded at -15 degrees celsius. The spring and summer months are hot, usually reaching 50 degrees celsius.
It's pretty clear that the worst part about going to the Sahara is that you don't which country to go to, considering that different parts of the Sahara all have different factors. Might as well come see them all!
BODIES OF WATER
The permanent rivers in the Sahara are the Nile River and the Niger River. The Nile flows through Sudan and Egypt, and then into the Mediterranean, while the Niger flows through Mali, and Nigeria, and then into the Gulf of Guinea. The Sahara has a numerous amount of underwater reservoirs, or aquifers. Although there are 20 or more lakes in the desert, only lake, Lake Chad, has drinkable water. Lake Chad is located at the southernmost edge of the Sahara. Aquifers are normally located above wadis, and when the ground is higher in some areas, the wadis rise up to form what we know as oases.
Thought a desert would never have rain? Well, surprisingly enough, it does! Precipitation averages about 5 inches per year, with some areas receiving less than 1 inch of rain annually! If you're lucky, you may even be able to see snowfall in the central massifs, yes, snow - brought to you by the Sahara Desert!
The soils of the Sahara contain minimal organic matter, and experience only slightly different horizons (strata) - meaning that the soil itself does not contain many biological organisms, but it does contain some nitrogen-fixing bacteria, of course, everybody loves those. The best part however is that you won't have to put salt on your food in the Sahara, because the soil itself is frequently saline. The margins of the desert have soils that contain a greater organic matter, meaning that there are more mineral nutrients.
Because the soil of the desert is loose, instead of compact, when rain falls into the soil, it is seeped in very quickly. This may however cause the rain to wash away useful nutrients.
Biotic factors - the parts of the ecosystem that are living. Ecology essentially focuses on how living organisms interact with their environment. Biotic factors refer to both animals and plants.
Hundreds of species exist in the Sahara desert, ranging from reptiles to mammals. One of the most prominent animals of the desert is the camel, particularly the dromedary camel.
The Sahara Desert used to be home to dinosaurs such as the Afrovenator, Jobaria, and the Ouranosauras, which have been extinct for nearly 65 million years. Around 10,500 years ago, monsoonal rains struck the Sahara, making it a habitable area. These rains soon started to recede around 5,500 years ago, eventually wiping out populations like the Bubal hartebeest, the scimitar horned oryx, the African wild dog, and the African lion. In fact, 86% of big animals in the Sahara are either extinct or endangered.
Other existing animals of the Sahara include the gerbil, jerboa, Cape hare, desert hedgehog, barbary sheep, dorcas gazelle, sand fox, common jackal, spotted hyena, and the slender mongoose. The Sahara is also home to more than 300 species of migratory birds, ranging from larks and ravens to ostriches.
The Sahara is also home to frogs, toads, and tadpoles that live in the lakes and rivers. These lakes and rivers also include algae, brine shrimp, and other crustaceans. Lizards, chameleons, skinks, and cobras can all be found amongst the rocks and sand dunes.
Because of the hot and arid landscaping of the Sahara, only certain animals can be supported in the Sahara desert. These animals have adapted to living for a long time without water and have been able to deal with the hot temperatures. For example, camels, who store food and water in their humps.
The Sahara has scarce plant life, as the highlands contain concentrations of grasses, shrubs, and trees, near the oases and the wadis. The Sahara does include a few halophytes, salt-tolerant plants, which are found in saline depressions of the desert.
A few prominent woody plants in the Sahara include the cypress, olive, and mastic trees. The Acacia, Artemisia, doum palm, oleander, date palm, and thyme trees are all found in the Sahara too.
Because of the salinity of the soil in the Sahara, the soil only supports halophyte plants that are found in salt depressions, for example, the Tamarix senegalenisis. The hot and arid temperature of the land supports only a few, particular plants, especially in the drier areas of the vast desert. These herbs, grasses, small shrubs, and trees are all heat and drought tolerant, for example the African Peyote Cactus that has the ability to store water for long periods of time.