Where is the Namib Desert?
The Namib Desert is a unique desert that stretches to the coast of Namibia. It has unique flora and fauna and, despite its arid landscape, is full of biodiversity and other natural surprises for tourists.
The Namib Desert is a coastal desert primarily located in Namibia, Africa, and is one of the largest coastal deserts in the world, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The area of the desert is 80,900 square kilometers,and it extends inland from the Atlantic Ocean to also cover parts of Angola and South Africa. Along the arid coastline of the South Atlantic Ocean, the Namib Desert stretches for 1,200 miles. The surface of the Namib Desert is characterized by shifting crescent-shaped sand dunes, barren gravel plains and rugged mountains. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), some of the desert sand dunes are over 300 meters high, which places them among the tallest in the world.
4. Historical role
The Namib Desert is considered one of the oldest deserts in the world, having existed for over 55 million years. The earliest evidence for humans living in the desert dates back to the end of the Stone Age. Today, rock paintings and engravings of these peoples can be seen at various sites in the Namib Desert. Stone circles, pottery and tools from bygone eras have also been found there. The most famous of the paintings is the painting “The White Lady”, seen near a rocky cliff beside the Brandberg Mountains. There are also rock carvings in Twyfelfontein of animals such as ocher-painted rhinos and elephants, ostriches and giraffes. According to UNESCO, fossils of human and animal footprints have also been found in Twyfelfontein. These paintings and prints shed much light on the rituals and practices of hunter-gatherers who have lived in southern Africa for at least 2,000 years.
3. Modern significance
Namibia receives more than a million tourists each year, according to the World Bank. Most of the American and European tourists visiting the country go there because of the tourist attractions in the Namib Desert. The Namib Desert is one of the destinations for desert loving tourists where visitors engage in activities such as hot air ballooning, sand dune climbing and quad biking. Along the coastline where the desert stretches, there are mining and prospecting companies, an important activity in a country whose mining sector provides 25 percent of the country’s income, according to the Africa Wildlife Foundation. This makes mining the biggest contributor to Namibia’s economy of any sector. Tungsten, diamond, salt and uranium are mined in the Namib Desert, much of which is mined by some of the world’s major mining conglomerates, such as the Rio Tinto group which runs all other companies operating in Namibia. in the field of uranium mining.
2. Habitat and biodiversity
Each year, much of the Namib Desert receives less than 10 millimeters of rain, making the dense coastal fog it receives the main source of water in many areas, according to UNESCO. According to the WWF, daytime temperatures in the desert can reach 60 degrees centigrade and at night drop below 0 degrees centigrade. Yet this harsh ecosystem is capable of supporting 3,500 plant species, half of which are endemic. There are various succulents, such as the Welwitschia Mirabilis plants found there. According to WWF, these Welwitschia mirabilis have only 2 leaves, but can have a lifespan of over 1000 years. Parts of the Namib Desert are dotted with wooded savannahs, and these are largely dominated by acacia and camel thorn species. These ecosystems are also home to abundant flora and fauna, including unique desert elephants (with feet larger than other elephants and able to survive solely on moisture derived from vegetation), mountain zebras, antelopes. Gemsbok, Short-eared Shrews, Grant’s Golden Moles, Karoo Bustards, and Peringuey’s Viper Vipers. The Namib Desert is also home to the elusive desert lions who have adapted to survive there. The fog beetle is also native to this environment, whose visible shell is able to harvest fog to maintain hydration.
1. Environmental threats and territorial conflicts
Even though it is largely a protected region, there are still many threats to the ecosystems of the Namib Desert. Off-road driving on gravel plains leaves tire marks that can last for over 40 years, as the minimal levels of rain recorded there cannot erase them. These marks damage slow growing lichen fields and lichens take time to rebuild. Much of this damage is caused by mining vehicles on desert prospecting missions, according to WWF. Mining, illegal harvesting of plants and other forms of unsustainable land use also destabilize the Namib Desert and its fragile ecosystems. According to the Namibian Coast Conservation and Management Project, coastal biodiversity in the desert is also threatened by pollution from mining, excessive water exploitation, climate change, land reclamation. land for mining or industrial development, overfishing and the introduction of invasive species for the development of mariculture along and just off the shores of the desert.