Working for birds in Africa

Geography

Tue, 02/05/2013 - 15:43 -- abc_admin
Miombo_Habitat_Zambia

Zambia Miombo Woodland

Image Credit: 
Claire Spottiswoode
Zambia_Map

The Republic of Zambia is a landlocked tropical country with an area of 752,614 km2. Most of Zambia is elevated plateau between 900 m and 1250 m above sea level and with a general decline in the south-west towards the Kalahari basin. Through Zambia lie several ancient rifted troughs (notably the Luangwa and Middle Zambezi Valleys and the country around Lakes Mweru and Tanganyika) that form a southern extension of the East African Rift system and much of this land lies below 900 m. Only a small area in the north-east exceeds 2000 m and can be classified as montane. These eastern highlands comprise the Nyika Plateau, the Mafinga and Makutu Mountains and they represent some of the southernmost formations in the chain of isolated peaks that runs from southern Kenya, through Tanzania to Malaŵi (the ’eastern arc’).

About 70% of the country is drained by the Zambezi and its major tributaries, the Kafue, Lunsemfwa and Luangwa. The remaining area lies within the Congo catchment in which the main rivers are the Chambeshi and the Luapula. Several major hydro-electric dams have been built, notably Itezhi-tezhi and Kafue Gorge on the Kafue River and Kariba on the Zambezi.

Due to its altitude, Zambia's climate is relatively mild, with 3 distinct seasons. The warm rainy season usually lasts 5-6 months between November and April. This is followed by a cool dry season between May and August and a hot dry season between September and November. Annual rainfall averages between about 600 and 1300 mm, decreasing southwards and in the major low-lying river valleys. In the hot season, daytime maximum temperatures average 27-38°C and in the cool season the minimum temperatures average 2-15°C.

Considering its large size, Zambia’s landscapes and vegetation are remarkably uniform. Almost the entire country falls within the Zambezian biome which extends from the Atlantic almost to the Indian Ocean, and from about 3° to 26° south. The most characteristic vegetation is a mosaic of miombo woodland and grassy dambos. In the north, one begins to find patches of moist evergreen forest, usually in the centre of dambos. These are known as 'mushitus'. The eastern highlands belong to the Afromontane biome and support a combination of grassland and rain forest. In Mwinilunga District, North-western Province the flora and fauna include a number of species characteristic of the Guinea-Congolian biome, particularly in the forests. Elements of both the Eastern and Lake Victoria Basin biomes can be found in certain areas and Zambia is particularly rich in large wetland areas such as the Kafue Flats and the Bangweulu Swamps.

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