Covering an area of 1 219 080 km², the Republic of South Africa extends to the southern tip of the African continent. The country borders Namibia to the Northwest; to the north with Botswana and to the east with Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland. The country is surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Lesotho, an independent country but with important ties to South Africa, is completely surrounded by South African territory.
Due to the size of the country, the climate is highly variable depending on the climatic zones. In the south and highlands, the climate is temperate, while in the northwest the climate is subtropical and in the western part of the country it is semi-arid. The annual average of precipitations is of 464 mm.
The main rivers are the Orange River, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean; the Vaal River, its main tributary, and the Limpopo, which empties into the Indian Ocean, originates near Johannesburg and later marks the border with Botswana and Zimbabwe in the north. The southernmost point of the country, and therefore of the African continent, is Cape Agulhas.
Flora and fauna
South Africa has more than 20,000 different plants, representing about 10% of all known species in the world, making it an area particularly rich in plant biodiversity.
The prevalent biome in the country is the prairie, especially in the Highveld, where the predominant flora are grasses, low shrubs and acacias, mainly those of white thorn and camel. Vegetation is sparser towards the northwest, due to low rainfall.
Four mountain meadow ecoregions are distinguished within the country:
- Upper Veld meadow in the Highveld
- Drakensberg mountain meadow, in the Drakensbergs, below 2,500 meters
- High mountain meadow of the Drakensbergs, in the Drakensbergs, above 2,500 meters
- Maputaland-Pondoland scrub in the valleys of the southern foothills of the Drakensbergs.
The grass and thorns of the savannah gradually give way to the shrubs of the savannah towards the northeast of the country, with a slower growth. There are a significant number of baobab trees in this area, near the northern end of the Kruger National Park.
In the Bushveld there are numerous habitats for mammals such as the lion, leopard, blue wildebeest, kudu, impala, hyena, hippopotamus and giraffe. The Bushveld habitat extends significantly to the northeast, including the territories belonging to the Kruger National Park and the Mala Mala Reserve, as well as the Waterberg Biosphere further north. WWF divides the northeast savanna region into three ecoregions, from east to west: Zambezi mopane wooded savanna, wooded savanna of southern Africa and wooded savanna of the Kalahari.
The desert region of the Karoo, in the west of the country, is divided into three ecoregions: the succulent Karoo, near the coast; the Karoo nama, in the interior (Namaqualand), where there are several species of plants that store water, such as aloes and euphorbias; and finally, and further north, the xerophilous savanna of the Kalahari.
The Mediterranean biome of the fynbos, one of the six flower kingdoms, is located in a small region of the Western Cape and consists of more than 9,000 of these species, making it one of the richest regions in the world in terms of biodiversity. floral. Most plants are hard-leaved perennials with needle-thin leaves, such as sclerophyllous plants. Another unique plant of South Africa is the genus of proteas, of which there are around 130 different species in this country.
Although South Africa has a large number of flowering plants, it has few forests. Only 1% of South Africa is covered by forest, which is found almost exclusively in the humid coastal plane of the Indian Ocean in KwaZulu-Natal: the coastal mosaic forest of KwaZulu and the Cape and the coastal mosaic forest of Maputaland and, further south, the Knysna montane rainforest and the Amatole Mountains. There are even smaller reserves of forests that are out of the reach of the fire. Imported tree species plantations are predominant, particularly non-native eucalyptus and pine. South Africa has lost a vast area of natural habitat in the last four decades, due to overpopulation, uncontrolled development patterns and deforestation in the 19th century.
As a country located in Africa according to HISTORYAAH, South Africa is one of the countries most affected by the invasion of alien species that are a great threat to native biodiversity and the current scarcity of water resources. The original temperate forest found by the first Europeans to settle in the country was ruthlessly exploited until only a few small areas remained. Currently South African hardwood trees such as podocarpus latifolius, ocotea bullata and olea laurifolia are under government protection, and several southern African mangrove enclaves are found on the Indian coast.
South Africa is home to many endemic animal species, such as the riverine rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis) which is critically endangered in the Karoo.