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What are the factors influencing vegetation in Africa?


What are the factors influencing vegetation in Africa?



1. Geologic influences
The two most important geologic modifications of vegetation have been the very ancient separation of Madagascar from the mainland, which gave rise to the distinct speciation of the island’s flora, and the long-continuing faulting and volcanism along East Africa’s huge rift system that has thrown up high ranges (e.g., the Ruwenzori between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and great volcanoes (Kilimanjaro) and has thus created and reshaped Afromontane flora.

2. Climatic influences
The repercussions of the great Pleistocene Ice Ages of Europe have constituted the most notable climatic influence on African flora in relatively recent geologic history. These consist of a succession of colder periods marked by glacial advances, interrupted by warmer, drier interglacials; the last series of these ended between about 5,000 and 10,000 years ago. Tropical Africa experienced contemporaneous fluctuations in its climate, although it is misleading to infer any simple equivalences between these fluctuations and the European periods of glacial advances and retreats.
During the wetter times (pluvials) in Africa, equatorial forests spread, separating northern woodlands from their southern counterparts (with consequent species differentiation); mountain vegetation descended onto the plateaus; and there is evidence that the Saharan climate was greatly ameliorated, much to the advantage of humans. During the warmer, drier interpluvials the existing vegetation was degraded in many zones. Dunes spread from the Sahara and over the Kalahari, for example, and their fossilized alignments—now vegetated—can be traced across the thorny woodlands and grasslands of Niger, Nigeria, Namibia, and Botswana.

3. Human influences
The greater part of the reduction of Africa’s natural vegetation has happened in the last 2,000 years— probably since the late 19th century for the tropical portions—the time during which humans have been most numerous and active. Pastoralism, agriculture, the rapid growth of human and livestock populations, the expansion of cities and towns, and the external demands for primary resources have made ever-greater demands upon the land for sustenance and perceived economic betterment. Much is known of the detailed processes of vegetation modification along the Mediterranean, since they have been observed and studied since Classical times, and a good deal is also known from the more than three centuries of study of the Cape area of South Africa, but until the late 19th century very little was understood about these processes in tropical Africa. Indeed, the timescale of actual human impact on African vegetation may be causally linked to the awareness of it by Europeans. Within the tropical forests and woodlands, fire undoubtedly has been the great human agent of clearance and degradation, of far greater efficacy than felling, bark-ringing, or uprooting—at least until the introduction of modern plantation agriculture and logging. Hunters, pastoralists, and cultivators have all fired the land for centuries and have gathered wild foodstuffs, thatch timber for construction, and fuel wood from the volunteer (i.e., uncultivated or self-generating) vegetation. The long-term effects of such activity bear directly upon the debated question of the origin of the savannas.
In earlier times, African cultivators found the fabric of the tropical rainforest comparatively difficult to modify substantially. In the 20th century, however, it was greatly reduced in extent (such as in Sierra Leone), patched and frayed (Nigeria), and exploited for timber exports (Gabon). Moreover, many of tropical Africa’s largest cities and busy seaports are in this zone. The most diverse and seemingly inexhaustible floral realm in Africa has therefore become a cause for widespread concern.
francis1897 answered the question on January 12, 2023 at 05:57

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