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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.

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