The Aïr Mountains, Niger
The Aïr Mountains (lower left quadrant) are a triangular massif, located in northern Niger, within the Sahara desert. Part of the West Saharan montane xeric woodlands ecoregion, they rise to more than 6,000 ft (1 830 m) and extend over 84 000 km².
Lying in the midst of desert, the Aïr plateau, with an average altitude between 500 and 900 m, forms an island of Sahel climate which supports a wide variety of life, many pastoral and farming communities, and dramatic geological and archaeological sites.
Because of its altitude (on average between 500 and 900 m) and despite its low rainfall (50 to 160 mm/year on the lower plateau), the Aïr forms a green region in comparison with the surrounding deserts, especially after the August-September seasonal rains.
The climate is classified as Sahel, like that of the regions well to its south. While the mountains are largely bare of vegetation, the dry wadi river valleys channel and hold rainwater in gueltas (stone pools), creating oases which provide forage for animals, and in some areas, farming.
The high Bagzane plateau of the central Aïr in particular provides adequate rainfall for intensive agriculture. Other, vast, areas of the region are entirely devoid of plant life and with their volcanic protrusions and rock fields present an otherworldly appearance.