Green life in the Sahara

Written on 06/03/2014

I'm thinking about a new trip. I'm thinking about the desert! I want to see some cactus, far more bigger that the one on my window sill.

I read an article yesterday saing that the Sahara is the world's hottest desert, and the third largest desert after Antarctica and the Arctic. At over 9,400,000 square kilometres, it covers most of North Africa, making it almost as large as China or the United States.

The Sahara stretches from the Red Sea, including parts of the Mediterranean coasts to the Atlantic Ocean. To the south, it is delimited by the Sahel, a belt of semi-arid tropical savanna that composes the northern region of central and western Sub-Saharan Africa.

The central Sahara is estimated to include five hundred species of plants, which is extremely low considering the huge extent of the area. Plants such as acacia trees, palms, succulents, spiny shrubs, and grasses have adapted to the arid conditions, by growing lower to avoid water loss by strong winds, by storing water in their thick stems to use it in dry periods, by having long roots that travel horizontally to reach the maximum area of water and to find any surface moisture and by having small thick leaves or needles to prevent water loss by evapo-transpiration. Plant leaves may dry out totally and then recover.

Human activities are more likely to affect the habitat in areas of permanent water (oases) or where water comes close to the surface. Here, the local pressure on natural resources can be intense. The remaining populations of large mammals have been greatly reduced by hunting for food and recreation.