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Archive for Salt Flats

Climate Change Issues for Etosha Pan, Namibia

18.7S 16.4E

April 20th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Salt Flats

Namibia – April 20th, 2013

The Etosha pan is a large 20-kilometre-long (75-mile-long) endorheic salt pan forming part of the Kalahari Basin in the north of Namibia. The pan is protected due to its designated as a Ramsar wetland of international importance; however, temperatures in Namibia have been rising at three times the global average rate for the twentieth century, and scientists expect the climate to continue to become hotter and drier—which could reduce the range and number of wildlife supported by Etosha. If nothing is done to reduce heat-trapping emissions, the pan faces a net loss of around eight species of mammals by 2050.

Diverse Vegetation of Bolivia

17.3S 66.1W

April 17th, 2013 Category: Salt Flats

Bolivia – April 16th, 2013

Bolivia has a huge degree of biodiversity, considered one of the greatest in the world; as well as several ecoregions with such ecological subunits as the Altiplano, tropical rainforests (including Amazon rainforest), dry valleys, and the Chiquitania, which is a tropical savanna. All of these feature enormous variations in altitude, from an elevation of 6,542 meters above sea level in Nevado Sajama, to nearly 70 meters along the Paraguay River.

Here, green vegetation can be seen northeast of the Andes Mountains, in Bolivia, in the tropical, forested portion of the country. Across the mountains, however, lies the arid, sparsely vegetated altiplano portion of the nation, which includes the bright white salt flats of the Salar de Uyuni.

Climate Change Affecting Wildlife in Etosha Pan, Namibia

18.7S 16.4E

April 4th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Salt Flats

Namibia – April 3rd, 2013

Visible at the top center of this image is the Etosha Pan, in Namibia. Although it is one of the harshest and most barren areas on Earth, the Pan and the surrounding sweetveld savannah plains are home to more than 114 mammal and some 340 bird species.

This animal life is sustained only because of underground springs that form waterholes on the outskirts of the pan. These waterholes allow animals to fight off the dry and the heat as they migrate across Etosha, seeking refuge from temperatures that can reach as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Without a subterranean water table and the numerous places where it reaches the surface, little game would have been attracted to the region in the first place. There are indications, however, that the climate may be changing. 1995 was the 18th year of below average rainfall in Etosha. Large herbivores, as a result, have become more widely dispersed in search of grazing, and the predators alsoseem to be ignoring their previous range limits to widen their search for prey. Lion pride structure has become loose, with individuals traveling huge distances.

Climate Change Affecting Okavango Delta and Makgadikgadi Pan, Botswana

19.7S 22.8E

March 29th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Rivers, Salt Flats

Botswana – March 29th, 2013

The Okavango Delta (upper left quadrant) is a large inland delta in Botswana, produced by seasonal flooding where the Okavango River spills into a trough in the endorheic basin of the Kalahari Desert. Summer rainfall (in January and February) in Angola’s highlands drains southward through the Okavango River. This water then gradually spreads over the delta from March to August, peaking in the last three months, in which the delta swells to a large, swampy marsh of three times its permanent size. This image was taken in late March, approximately one month in to the flooding period.

The delta is important to Botswana for several reasons, including being a home to many plant and animal species, revenue generated through tourism, and use by local communities for water, fishing and agriculture. However, climate change is affecting the delta through declining precipitation and increasing temperatures, causing flood patterns and water channel distribution to shift. Reduced inflow could result in swamps drying out and forests being replaced by grasslands, causing local animal species to migrate or become extinct.

Also visible here, near the right edge, is the bright white Makgadikgadi Pan, a large salt pan in the middle of the dry savanna of northeastern Botswana. One of the largest salt flats in the world, it is all that remains of the huge, ancient Lake Makgadikgadi. For much of the year, most of the area remains waterless and extremely arid; however, it floods during periods of good rain, attracting wildlife. As it is linked to Okavango Delta by the Boteti River, reduced inflow in the delta region can also affect the ecosystem of the pan.

Stunning White Salt Flats of the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia – March 20th, 2013

20.1S 67.5W

March 20th, 2013 Category: Lakes, Salt Flats

Bolivia – March 20th, 2013

The bright white area in the lower part of this image is the salt flats of the Salar de Uyuni, in Bolivia. Salt pans occur in areas which would otherwise be lakes or ponds if the climate did not evaporate the water quicker than the rate of rainfall. The result if the liquid can’t drain is massive deposits of minerals.

The Uyuni salt flats stretch 6,500 miles, making them the biggest in the world. They are even larger than Lake Titicaca, the vast stretch of water shared by Bolivia and neighbouring Peru (visible in the upper part of the image). They are also so flat that NASA uses their surface to calibrate satellite orbits.