Presenter Name Presentation Date. Big Ideas.
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Section 1: Physical Features BIG IDEA Physical processes shape Earth’s surface. Over thousands of years, the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates has shaped the landforms of Africa south of the Sahara. The region’s landscape includes large plateaus, rocky cliffs, and great, steep valleys.
A large camel can drink 25 gallons (95 L) of water in 10 minutes! It then stores the water in its bloodstream. Camels sweat very little, so the water they drink can last for weeks. Unlike a camel, a person in a desert can lose about two gallons of water a day by sweating! Humans must replace water frequently. Water is more plentiful in some regions of Africa south of the Sahara than in others. Read on to learn more about the physical features of this region.
Main Idea Africa south of the Sahara consists mainly of vast plateaus with few mountains and lowlands.
Geography and You Do you know what the landscape might look like if tectonic plates beneath the Earth’s surface pulled apart? Read to learn about the amazing landscape of Africa’s Great Rift Valley.
Africa south of the Sahara is more than
two and a half times larger than the United
States. As Figure 1 shows, this enormous
region is made up of four subregions,
or smaller regions: West Africa, Central
Africa, East Africa, and Southern Africa.
Africa south of the Sahara extends from
the Sahara in the north to Africa’s southern tip at the Cape of Good Hope.
Almost all of Africa south of the Sahara lies on a series of plateaus. The plateaus are formed from the solid rock that lies under most of the African continent. They rise like steps across the continent from west to east, as well as from the coasts into the interior. Many of these landforms rise from 1,000 to 2,000 feet (305 to 610 m) in western Africa to 7,000 feet (2,134 m) or more in the east. The plateaus give Africa south of the Sahara the highest overall elevation of any world region—more than 1,000 feet (305 m) above sea level.
In eastern and southern Africa, the edges of plateaus are often marked by escarpments. Escarpmentsare steep, jagged cliffs. Rivers that flow across plateaus drop suddenly at escarpments to become rushing rapids or tumbling waterfalls. Escarpments create barriers to trade by blocking ships from sailing between the interior and the sea.
Mountains Although Africa south of the Sahara generally has a high elevation, it has only a few long mountain ranges and towering summits. In the east are the Ethiopian Highlands, as well as volcanic mountain peaks, such as Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is the highest peak in the region, rising to a height of 19,341 feet (5,895 m). The name Kilimanjarocomes from a phrase in the Swahili language that means “shining mountain.”
Few features break the flatness of Africa’s large plateau areas. In eastern Africa, however, an amazing natural wonder—the Great Rift Valley—cuts through the landscape. The Great Rift Valley stretches about 4,000 miles (6,437 km) from Southwest Asia to southern Africa. A rift valley is a large break in the Earth’s surface formed by shifting tectonic plates. Millions of years ago, plate movements created deep cuts in the Earth’s crust where the Great Rift Valley now lies.The Great Rift Valley
Stop and look at Pictures
Africa south of the Sahara has four large river systems—the Nile, the Congo, the Niger, and the Zambezi (zam·BEE·zee). All of these rivers begin in the interior plateaus and make their way to the sea. In some places these rivers and their many branches are useful for freshwater and transportation, but geographical barriers limit their use in other areas.
The Zambezi River in southern Africa plunges over a cliff, creating Victoria Falls, a series of waterfalls that drop as much as 420 feet (128 m). The thick mist from the falls can be seen from miles away.
Many, like the Congo, flow through plateaus and carve deep gorges, or steep-sided valleys formed when rivers cut through the land.
Main Idea Africa south of the Sahara holds both a great variety and large quantities of mineral resources.
Geography and YouHave you ever seen diamond rings displayed in the window of a jewelry store? Read to discover where many of the world’s diamonds are found.
Main Idea Most of Africa south of the Sahara has warm or hot climates. Rainfall, however, varies greatly throughout the region. Geography and You Have you ever lived through a long period without much rain? Read to learn about how lack of rain affects the lives of people in parts of Africa south of the Sahara.
Africa south of the Sahara lies mainly in the Tropics. As a result, most of the region receives the direct rays of the sun year round, producing generally high temperatures. At higher elevations in this latitude, the climate is very different, however. For example, places with high elevation, such as mountains, often are cooler than low land plains at the same latitude.
The rain forests of Central and West Africa receive more than 80 inches (203 cm) of rain annually. By contrast, the Namib Desert in Southern Africa often gets less than 10 inches (25 cm) of rain per year. Some parts of Africa south of the Sahara have long droughts, or periods of time when there is no rain at all. Droughts can cause crop failures and widespread starvation.
In a rain forest, vegetation grows at several different levels. The forest floor has mosses, ferns, and shrubs. Above these, palms and other trees grow about 60 feet (18 m) high. The tops of the highest trees form an umbrella-like covering called the canopy. The forest canopy is alive with tropical flowers, fruits, monkeys, parrots, snakes, and insects.
Rain forests support an enormousvariety of plant and animal life. Many tropical African countries rely on the sale of products from the rain forests, such as wood, for income. In addition, farmers clear the land for new farmland. They also depend on cut wood for fuel. All of these practices have led to deforestation, or the widespread clearing of forestland. The soil on the cleared lands, however, quickly becomes less fertile. Farmers are then forced to clear even more forestland to grow their crops.
Tropical Dry Climate Farther from the Equator, rain forests give way to great stretches of tropical savanna, or grasslands with scattered woods. In this climate zone, temperatures remain hot all year, but rainfall amounts are much lower than in rain forest areas. Rains are heavy in the summer but light in the winter.
Beginning in the 1880s, European countries, such as Britain, France, and Germany, set out to claim Africa south of the Sahara. For economic profit and political advantage, they carved the region into colonies. In doing so, they ripped apart once-unified regions and threw together ethnic groups that had little in common. European armies with advanced weapons defeated Africans who resisted the takeover. By 1914, almost the entire region was under European control. The only territories free of European rule were Ethiopia and Liberia.
During these civil wars, many people died or became refugees, people who flee to another country to escape mistreatment or disaster. Some of this unrest spilled over from one country to another. In some cases, United Nations (UN) peacekeeping troops were called in to restore and maintain peace.
Main Idea Africa south of the Sahara has a rapidly growing population. Geography and You Has the population in your community increased or decreased in the last 10 years? Read to learn how cities in this region are growing larger
Today Africa south of the Sahara has about 750 million people. Population throughout the region has grown rapidly in recent decades. In fact, the rate of population growth in Africa south of the Sahara is among the highest in the world.
Main Idea Africa south of the Sahara is home to many different ethnic and language groups.
Geography and You Have you ever listened to jazz? Jazz developed from African music. Read to find out about culture and lifestyles in Africa south of the Sahara.