PLANT ECOLOGY OF THE NAMIB DESERT LAB 3

PLANT ECOLOGY OF THE NAMIB DESERT LAB 3 - A frika Focus, V...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–3. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Afrika Focus, Vol.7,Nr.4,1991,pp 355-400 PLANT ECOLOGY OF THE NAMIB DESERT Patrick VA N DAMME Faculty of Agricultural Sciences Coupure Links 653 B 9000 Gent Belgium CURRENT RESEARCH INTEREST: tropical and subtropical ethnobotany, salt and drought stress of crops. SUMMARY The Namib desert is reportedly the oldest desert in the world. It consists of a number of very distinct ecosystems, six of which are dealt with in this text. Among them are the sand dune, the dry river bed and the domed inselbergs vegetation. The importance of fog water absorption for the Namib flora is discussed. Two important and noteworthy endemic plant species, i.e. Welwitschia mirabilis and Acanthosicyos horrida are treated extensively, because of their great interest for plant physiology and ethnobotany, resp. Special attention is given to the importance of the CAM photosynthetic system for Namib desert plant survival. Where possible the ethnobotanic importance of the species is discussed. KEY WORDS: Acanthosicyos horrida. desert flora, drought stress, ethnobotany, succulents, Welwitschia mirabilis 1. Introduction Approximately half of Africa's surface area can be classified as extremely arid, arid or semi-arid. One quarter to one third of the continent's surface is occupied 355
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
by the world's largest desert - the Sahara - which extends over 4800 km from the Atlantic to the Red Sea with a maximum width of almost 2000 km. The Namib desert forms the second largest zone of extreme aridity. To the east of it lies the world's largest continuous expanse of sand - the Kalahari region. These reddish sands, however, are now fixed by vegetation and the dune form is now a rarity. At first sight, vegetation and animal life seem to be almost completely absent from the Namib desert. A closer look, however, shows there is a lot going on in the area. Especially at night, the desert comes to life and a lot of insects, snakes and geckoes become active. Especially in the rocky part of the desert and in and around the semi-permanent rivers there are a great number of plants that are able to withstand the harsh desert conditions or have developed ways to survive during the short periods that the climatic conditions are optimal for plant growth. The Namib desert flora has recently attracted more interest because it is now known to be a reservoir of interesting plant species that form a germplas that can be used in breeding for new drought tolerant species and varieties. The International Board for Plant Genetic Resources, which is based in Rome, regularly organizes plant collection trips to establish a collection of these plants. The author of the present article is currently monitoring a research project sponsored by the European Community studying the floral diversity of the Namib desert with particular emphasis on the ethnobotanical importance, i.e. the potential uses by man, of the plant species that are identified under the project. This article reviews the current knowledge of the Namib flora and its ethnobotanical properties.
Background image of page 2
Image of page 3
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 10/18/2010 for the course BIO 204 taught by Professor O'neal during the Fall '07 term at SUNY Stony Brook.

Page1 / 47

PLANT ECOLOGY OF THE NAMIB DESERT LAB 3 - A frika Focus, V...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 3. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online