Zambezian flooded grasslands
The Zambezian flooded grasslands is an ecoregion of southern and eastern Africa that is rich in wildlife.
The Zambezian flooded grasslands can be found on seasonally or permanently flooded lowlands in the basin of the Zambezi and neighboring river basins. These enclaves lie in the broad belt of dry and not very fertile miombo and mopane savannas and woodlands that extend east and west across Africa, in broad band from northern Botswana and Namibia in the west to Tanzania and Mozambique in the east.
Large enclaves of flooded grassland include:
- Kilombero Valley in southern Tanzania
- Moyowosi-Malagarasi floodplain in central Tanzania
- along the Ugalla River floodplain in Tanzania
- The Okavango Delta in Botswana
- around Lake Chilwa in Malawi
- The Barotse Floodplain, Kafue Flats, Busanga Swamp, and Lukanga Swamp in the Zambezi basin of Zambia.
- The upper Chambeshi River, Bangweulu Swamp, and Mweru Marsh in Zambia.
The region has a tropical climate with a hot wet summer between November and March.
These patches of wetland contain grassland and swamp vegetation which varies from area to area within this widely spread ecoregion.
Even during the dry season the floodplains sustain a great deal of wildlife including grazing African buffalo, wildebeest, and elephants, zebras, and giraffes, with hippopotamus and crocodiles in the waters. There are many antelopes such as waterbucks, pukus, elands, and lechwe, the Bangwelu Swamp in particular being home to black lechwe (Kobus leche smithermani), tsessebe, and sitatunga while the Kafue Flats have large groups of Kafue lechwe and Burchell's zebra.
The large numbers of birds, especially waterbirds, in the floodplains include saddle-billed storks. There are two endemic reptiles; the Merara toad (Amietophrynus reesi) in the Kilombero valley, and the Barotse water snake (Crotaphopeltis barotseensis).
Threats and preservation
Despite the tsetse fly and the swampy water the floodplains have long been home to rural communities, such as the Lozi people in the Barotse Floodplain and the Tonga in the Kafue Flats, but are mostly unspoilt and large areas are protected. However, wildlife is still vulnerable to poaching and illegal farming or grazing of livestock. Meanwhile as the population in this part of Africa is continually growing demand for water and farmland places the floodplains under constant threat as land is polluted or farmed, grassland set on fire and rivers are dammed or diverted. The Kafue Flats have been drastically changed by the damming of the river and similar projects are planned for the Okavango.
Protected areas include the Okavango Delta, the Bangweulu, Moyowosi and Kilombero swamps and the Kafue Flats and in addition Lake Chilwa is a Ramsar birding area. Of these Okavango is the largest and best-known, being mostly within the Moremi Game Reserve, having spectacular wildlife and a well-developed safari industry based in the town of Maun. In Zambia Lochinvar and Blue Lagoon National Parks are protected.