Savannah is an area that features a mix of both wood and grass. Usually, trees in Savannahs are placed at a distance from each other so that the naturally formed canopy does not close. This open canopy is crucial for the grass on the ground. If the canopy were to close, the grass will not receive sufficient sunlight for it to grow. A lot of people tend to believe that Savannahs as compared to forests consist of trees that are scattered.
However, many savannas feature a higher density of trees and are placed at a regular distance. In addition to that, Savannas are also known for their heavy rainfall, which is limited to one season. Depending on the region and climate, savannas may differ.
This region extends from the Eastern Cape in South Africa, along the coastal belt to well into the central and northern part of Zambia.
The vegetation comprises thorn scrub and mopane woodland, the eastern margin has dense woodland habitats.
The grass cover here although sparse provides good reliable grazing.
The majority of southern Africa’s great game reserves and parks are located in this region.
This is a phenomenal area since it supports the greatest diversity of wildlife in Africa.
Generally, savannahs tend to grow and thrive in tropical regions. The temperature in these areas ranges from warm to hot with season rains occurring each year. However, the rainfalls that occur are quite huge and often flood the areas. As a result, animals tend to shift to a higher-level ground. As the water level recedes, they come to their regular routine of grazing and are found gathering around permanent pools of water to quench their thirst. The mean annual precipitation varies in different savannahs. It usually ranges from 80 to 150 cm.
However, in some central continental locations, the precipitation could be as low as 50 cm. In addition to that, the dry seasons tend to be long and hot, prevailing longer than the wet seasons. Savannahs are categorized into three types, dry, wet, and thornbush. The basis of this categorization depends on the dry season. In wet savannahs, the dry seasons tend to last between 3 to 5 months, whereas, in dry savannahs, the season could last between 5 to 7 months. However, in the case of the thornbush, the season could last even longer. The division extends further into savannah woodlands, tree savannahs, savannahs with grass, and scattered shrubs.
Although Savannahs may differ but most of them share similar features and characteristics. First, they are dependent on the dry season and generally feature a combination of both grass and woods. These areas catch fires at least once each year, which causes significant damage to wildlife and its habitats.
Fauna of Savannah Woodlands
Savannahs provide a habitat to a large variety of animals particularly grazing mammals. Furthermore, pollinating, seed dispersal, or cycling insects are also found here that are critical for vegetation and plants. Many Savannah areas today consist of grazing animals, which are used for commercial purposes. In that respect, Africa is known to have the best savannah fauna due to large animals existing. In Australian Savannas comparatively cater to the likes of wallabies and kangaroos.
Structure and Population
Savannahs due to trees, shrubs, and grass mainly consist of grazers. The plants in such areas require constant moisture to grow and thrive and they receive it in sufficient amount. If the appropriate amount of moisture is present, the plants will grow. Otherwise, in its absence, they will simply die. Moreover, grazers also alter the balance between grasses and woody plants in Savannah. Depending on the feeding habits, grazing animals could push the grass towards extinction. However, that does not apply to woody plants.
Moreover, animals in savannahs have adapted to the changing weather and climate conditions. A huge number of animals including birds are seasonal migrants. They visit these areas right after seasonal rainfalls when the vegetation turns lush green and new plants along with the grass become ready for feeding.
Another chief characteristic of savannahs is bush fires. Normally, fires in these areas occur due to lightning strikes but nowadays, it is mostly caused by humans. Although it is dangerous for the environment but important for the ecosystems of savannah. Once the areas are done with rains, there are dead plants and leaf litter scattered throughout the area. Fire in that aspect consumes all of it quickly.
Moreover, the adult trees have a thick corky bark that protects them from fire injury. Even though the fire phenomenon is believed to be a beneficial technique but it has sparked debates across the globe regarding the way it is carried out. The majority believes that it should be more of a natural phenomenon as compared to humans igniting the fire themselves.
South African Parks with Savannah Type Vegetation
There are several parks existing in South Africa that feature characteristics similar to regular savannahs. Furthermore, some of these areas are protected to ensure the thriving of wildlife.
Addo Elephant National Park
The Addo Elephant National park is a protected area existing in South Africa. It is amongst the 20 national parks of the country. The Addo Elephant National Park consists of grassland and woody areas that provide suitable habitats for the animals here. It came into being in 1931 when the elephants were near to extinction and only 11 were left roaming the area.
Today, it consists of more than 600 elephants and a huge variety of other mammals and birds. Furthermore, the Addo Elephant National Park was extended to include the Woody Cape Nature Reserve that would cater to the needs of inhabitants such as penguins, gannets, lions, buffalo, leopards, and rhinos.
Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is one of the biggest game parks in the world. It offers a little bit of everything. Covering an area of 19, 485 square kilometers, it consists of everything from grasslands to woody savannah. The Kruger National Park is home to thorn, knob-thorn trees and many other species of shrubs.
Furthermore, five big animals are found here as well. The wildlife is continuously monitored through cameras set up throughout the park. Over the years, the area has experienced constant threats related to poaching, droughts, and global warming. Therefore, efforts are being made to conserve the area for many years to come.
Savannahs are important for the survival of animals around the world. It is a primary source of both food and water for every specie. Furthermore, the savannahs that consist of game reserves and parks also bring in a lot of revenue. This is crucial for the development and preservation of protected areas as well as endangered species. Since much harm has been brought by humans over the years, it is only right that the world comes together to conserve them.