In physical geography, a desert is a landscape form or region that receives little precipitation. As a consequence, deserts have a reputation for supporting very little life. Compared to wetter regions this may be true, although upon closer examination, deserts often harbor a wealth of life that usually remains hidden (especially during the daylight) to preserve moisture. Approximately one-third of Earth's land surface is desert.
Desert landscapes have certain common features. Desert soil is often composed mostly of sand and sand dunes may be present. Exposures of rocky terrain are typical, and reflect minimal soil development and sparseness of vegetation. Bottom lands may be salt-covered flats. Eolian (wind-driven) processes are major factors in shaping desert landscapes.
Deserts sometimes contain valuable mineral deposits that were formed in the arid environment or that were exposed by erosion. Because deserts are dry, they are ideal places for human artifacts and fossils to be preserved.