Image: answersafrica.com

Image: answersafrica.com

Amidst various challenges punching the eyes of the African continent such as overpopulation, poverty rate and so on, there are some natural reputations that give the continent an enviable position on the world map.

Some of these features are its wild life, ecosystem, desert; among which are the great Kalahari, the Serengeti and the Sahara.

Let’s zoom a continental lens on these places one at a time under two compartments. The first is The Deserts which includes the Sahara and the Kalahari; and then the other ecosystem which is the Serengeti.

THE DESERTS

On the African continent, there are up to fifteen deserts among which are Sahara, Kalahari, Namib, Chalbi, Danakil, Sahara, Tanzerouft, White Desert, Eastern Desert, Sinai Desert, Blue Desert, Atlantic Coastal Desert and Libyan Desert, which is also called the Western Desert. The deserts in Africa vary widely in size and location. Some, such as the Kalahari and Sahara, are vast stretches of hot and barren lands that cover significant portions of the African continent, while others, such as the Atlantic Coastal Desert, are considerably smaller.

Sahara Desert

The Sahara is the largest hot desert in the world, and the third largest desert in the world after Antarctica and the Arctic. Its area of 9,200,000 square kilometres (3,600,000 sq mi) is comparable to the area of the United States.

The desert comprises much of North Africa, excluding the fertile region on the Mediterranean coast, the Atlas Mountains of the Maghreb, and the Nile Valley in Egypt and Sudan.

It stretches from the Red Sea in the east and the Mediterranean in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the west, where the landscape gradually changes from desert to coastal plains. To the south, it is bounded by the Sahel, a belt of semi-arid tropical savanna around the Niger River valley and the Sudan Region of Sub-Saharan Africa.

The plants of the Sahara are highly diversified based on the bio-geographical characteristics of this vast desert.

The Saharan flora comprises around 2800 species of vascular plants. The central Sahara is estimated to include five hundred species of plants, which is extremely low considering the huge extent of the area.

Plants such as acacia trees, palms, succulents, spiny shrubs, and grasses have adapted to the arid conditions, by growing lower to avoid water loss by strong winds, by storing water in their thick stems to use it in dry periods, by having long roots that travel horizontally to reach the maximum area of water and to find any surface moisture and by having small thick leaves or needles to prevent water loss by evapo-transpiration. Plant leaves may dry out totally and then recover.

Of animals, Several species of fox live in the Sahara, including the fennec fox, pale fox and Rüppell’s fox. The addax , a large white antelope, can go nearly a year in the desert without drinking. The dorcas gazelle is a north African gazelle that can also go for a long time without water. Other notable gazelles include the rhim gazelle and dama gazelle.

The Saharan cheetah (northwest African cheetah) lives in Algeria, Togo, Niger, Mali, Benin, and Burkina Faso. There remain fewer than 250 mature cheetahs, which are very cautious, fleeing any human presence. The cheetah avoids the sun from April to October, seeking the shelter of shrubs such as balanites and acacias. They are unusually pale. The other cheetah subspecies (northeast African cheetah) lives in Chad, Sudan and the eastern region of Niger.

Other animals include the monitor lizards, hyrax, sand vipers, and small populations of African wild dog, in perhaps only 14 countries and red-necked ostrich. There exist other animals in the Sahara (birds in particular) such as African silverbill and black-faced firefinch, among others.

There are also small desert crocodiles in Mauritania and the Ennedi Plateau of Chad. The deathstalker scorpion can be 10 cm (3.9 in) long. Its venom contains large amounts of agitoxin and scyllatoxin and is very dangerous; however, a sting from this scorpion rarely kills a healthy adult. Dromedary camels and goats are the domesticated animals most commonly found in the Sahara. Because of its qualities of endurance and speed, the dromedary is the favourite animal used by nomads.

Kalahari Desert

The Kalahari Desert is a large semi-arid sandy savannah in Southern Africa extending 900,000 square kilometres (350,000 sq mi), covering much of Botswana, parts of Namibia (known as South-West Africa from 1884 to 1990), and regions of South Africa.

The Kalahari has vast areas covered by red sand without any permanent surface water. Drainage is by dry valleys, seasonally inundated pans, and the large salt pans of the Makgadikgadi Pan in Botswana and Etosha Pan in Namibia.

The only permanent river, the Okavango, flows into a delta in the northwest, forming marshes that are rich in wildlife. Ancient dry riverbeds—called omuramba—traverse the central northern reaches of the Kalahari and provide standing pools of water during the rainy season. A semi-desert, with huge tracts of excellent grazing after good rains, the Kalahari supports more animals and plants than a true desert, such as the Namib Desert to the west.

There are small amounts of rainfall and the summer temperature is very high. The driest areas usually receive 110–200 millimetres (4.3–7.9 in) of rain per year, and the wettest just a little over 500 millimetres (20 in).

The surrounding Kalahari Basin covers over 2,500,000 square kilometres (970,000 sq mi) extending further into Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, and encroaching into parts of Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Kalahari is home to many migratory birds and animals. Previously havens for wild animals from elephants to giraffes, and for predators such as lions and cheetahs, the riverbeds are now mostly grazing spots, though leopards and cheetahs can still be found.

The area is now heavily grazed and cattle fences restrict the movement of wildlife. Among deserts of the Southern Hemisphere, the Kalahari most closely resembles some Australian deserts in its latitude and its mode of formation.

The Kalahari Desert came into existence approximately sixty million years ago along with the formation of the African continent.

OTHER ECOSYSTEM

Africa is a large, diverse continent that boasts a multitude of ecosystems. There are various ecosystems in Africa among which are the grassland ecosystem in South Africa, the Savana, and the Serengeti.

The Serengeti

The Serengeti ecosystem is a geographical region in Africa. It is located in northern Tanzania and extends to south-western Kenya between 1 and 3 degrees south latitudes and between 34 and 36 degrees east longitudes. It spans approximately 30,000 km2 (12,000 sqmi). The Kenyan part of the Serengeti is known as Maasai Mara.

The Serengeti hosts the largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world, which helps secure it as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa and one of the ten natural travel wonders of the world.

The Serengeti is also renowned for its large lion population and is one of the best places to observe prides in their natural environment. The region contains the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and several game reserves.

Approximately 70 large mammal and 500 bird species are found there. This high diversity is a function of diverse habitats, including riverine forests, swamps, kopjes, grasslands, and woodlands. Blue wildebeests, gazelles, zebras, and buffalos are some of the commonly found large mammals in the region.

Author: Taofeek Ayeyemi