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Environmental Research in Africa

ASAP Tickets is proud to support Dr. Paolo D’Odorico, our long-time customer, in his research of natural and human-caused impacts on the Kalahari dunes and consequences they may bring for the local people. We have sponsored the professor’s travel to Botswana, where he is investigating the impact of climate change and land use on the Kalahari Desert environment.

I would like to thank ASAP Tickets for its generous support of our work. They are an invaluable partner with an exemplary record of being good stewards of the environment.

Professor D’Odorico teaches at the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. He is an esteemed professor with several published papers on environmental preservation.

The Kalahari Desert in a Nutshell

  • The name of the desert and sand dunes, Kalahari, originates from Tswana language and can be translated as ‘a waterless place’.
  • The Kalahari is mostly flat and the only permanent river that flows through the desert is the Okavango River.
  • Kalahari desert is the 6th biggest desert by area on Earth and It is the 2nd biggest desert in Africa after the Sahara.
  • It covers over 70% of Botswana's territory.
  • Vegetation in the Kalahari consists mainly of grasses and acacias but there are over 400 identified plant species present.
  • The Kalahari gets very hot — it can reach temperatures of 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) in the summer. In winter the desert has a dry, cold climate where the temperature can reach 32 degrees (0 degrees Celsius).
  • Geologists believe that the Kalahari Desert came into existence around 60 million years ago.

The Kalahari Desert is not really a desert, as it receives too much rain. It is a large semi-arid sandy savannah, where animals have adapted to the extremely dry conditions.

The land is now heavily grazed making cattle breeding accountable as the largest single source of rural income and the second largest part of the economy of Botswana in general.

The Kalahari Desert stretches across 7 countries – Botswana, Zambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The Kalahari Desert stretches across 7 countries – Botswana, Zambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Threats

The Kalahari was a much wetter place before the Lake Makgadikgadi dried out several thousand years ago forming one of the largest salt flats in the world - the Makgadikgadi Pan. The amount of rain this region receives has declined to 20 inches per year in its wettest areas and 4 to 8 in its driest. Drought didn’t stop the development of cattle farming as people found a way to get water from the underground reserves using pumps. This allowed farmers to use arid territories which in turn led to an increase of the grazed area and herd sizes.

According to professor D’Odorico, such land exploitation and climate change are the main reasons for flora and fauna degradation in the Kalahari.

The more cattle is bred, the more grass cover is taken away which is no longer restored due to lack of rain water during the year.

This all leads to dune reactivation - the process of dunes transforming from stable to active form. Without grasses to anchor the dunes in place, their sand grains are blowing in the wind. This will have a negative effect on the nearby communities, as it will result in farmers being unable to grow food on the land.

What It Means For The Future

Paolo D’Odorico’s study will shed light on the large scale implications of overgrazing and climate change on one of the most vulnerable arid landscapes in the southern hemisphere.

Not only will Dr. D’Odorico’s research help the people of Botswana maintain their sources of food and living by evaluating the sustainability of different land use strategies, but it will also provide an integrated assessment of the natural and human threats faced by the Kalahari. Beyond the regional impacts in Africa, this research will provide critical information for land users and managers in other environmentally sensitive arid regions.

Professor D’Odorico says that the last time Kalahari dunes were in an active state was more than 10,000 years ago and now it has the potential to cause considerable changes to the atmosphere. The Kalahari Desert could become a large source of dust emission. Although its contribution is relatively low at the moment, it is important to understand how significant the role of all factors involved could be in the long term.

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