13 Nov 2020
The Namib Desert, with its endless expanses and majestic sand dunes, is the oldest desert in the world. Although the extreme climate with intense heat during the day and cold nights as well as strong winds near the coast, suggests that very few living things would survive here. Interestingly however, it has a most fascinating fauna and flora.
A visit to the Namib is an unforgettable experience, one becomes immersed in eternity.
In the south of the Namib Desert, is the “restricted area”, called Sperrgebiet, where diamonds have been mined for over 110 years. Now fewer and fewer diamonds are found here.
Recently, large areas have been declared a national park with the new name “Tsau-Khaeb”. The park contains various endemic plant species, of which very few are actually known! !
A new book puts the focus on these plants for the very first time, in a format that is also new to the country:“Endemic plants of the Sperrgebiet - a photographic guide” by the scientist Antje Burke is the first electronic book of its kind in Namibia.
Over the years the author has published various plant guides on the Namib Desert and other areas of the country. Her latest book is devoted exclusively to the endemic plant species that are found in the Tsau Khaeb National Park, which was formerly the Sperrgebiet.
The author emphasises that the risk of extinction is greatest for plants that can be found in only limited areas of the country . As a signatory to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Namibia has a special obligation to take care of its endemic plants and ensure their preservation. “To protect them, we have to know what they look like,” she writes. This not only applies to visitors to the park, but above all to nature conservation officers, scientists and park officials.
The aim of this book is to help people identify endemic plants. It is therefore written for laypersons and includes a minimum of technical terms. The necessary terms are explained in a glossary at the end of the book. The book is also interesting for botanists.
The Namib Desert holds great diversity. According to the author, there are 4,344 plant species in Namibia, of which 680 (around 16%) are endemic. Most of them are found in the Namib Desert. This is a rich percentage of endemic flora, surpassed only by South Africa (70%) and Angola (24%) in southern Africa. In comparison, Botswana only has 13 confirmed endemic species, that's only 0.4% of its flora.
The ancient Namib Desert has existed for 43 million years, which gave the plants sufficient time to learn to adapt to the environmental conditions of the Namib, writes Antje Burke. The southern part of the Namib, where the Tsau Khaeb Park is also located, is evolutionarily dominated by a relatively young plant family - the Aizoaceae - and new species develop relatively quickly in this group.
Burke explains the plants native only to the restricted area, using short texts with multiple photos and drawings as additional illustrations.with In addition she also mentions their Latin names and their specific peculiarities.
For each plant it is noted whether it is endangered or severely endangered. On a map, the author uses Individual letters in different colours to show exactly where the various plants and succulents grow. The book also draws attention to climate change, as it is uncertain how an increasing lack of morning fog in future, as the only “irrigation”, will affect the flora in the fragile ecosystem..
The new "Book Endemic plants of the Sperrgebiet - a photographic guide" with 84 pages by Antje Burke about endemic plant species offers a good insight into the flora of a remote area in the far southwestern corner of Namibia. It is only available as an e-book in electronic format and itcan be downloaded free of charge from the “Environmental Information Service” website at www.the-eis.com/elibrary/.
About the author
Antje Burke comes from the Rhine Valley in Germany and first got to know the Negev Desert in Israel as part of her research for her master's thesis - and also the flora there. She visited Namibia in the 1980s and was so fascinated by the desert and the country that she decided to stay. She specialised in the ecology of desert plants. Antje Burke worked at the Gobabeb research station in the Namib Desert and, after completing her doctorate, as a lecturer at the University of Namibia (UNAM). She later founded the environmental consultancy EnviroScience. Dr. Antje Burke has also invested a lot of time and work in the creation of botanical distribution maps, the establishment of a seed bank for rehabilitation projects in Namibia. She has published numerous scientific articles and several botanical and ecological books and also gives lectures on the promotion of environmental awareness in Namibia.
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