Drylands: Landscapes, Ecosystems and People

Module code: GY3436

This module concerns the contemporary and past environments of African Deserts. It is directly based on recent staff research and particularly focuses on landscapes, ecology and history of southern African deserts. The module is broad, and covers a range of themes encompassing: desert climatology; the ecology and adaptations of desert vegetation; the character and individuality of desert landscape processes; and the long-term evolution of desert climates. The inherent dynamism of deserts in space and time is a key emphasis. We also consider human occupation of deserts, including past hunter-gatherer adaptations and the more recent role (or not!) of humans in 'desertification' and land degradation.

Topics covered

  • The macro-scale controls on aridity at the global scale, and across Africa
  • Temporal variability in dryland climatic conditions (notable drought events)
  • The ecology and flora of several key African biomes (e.g. Savanna, Nama Karoo)
  • The landscapes and landforms of desert environments
  • The long-term climatic evolution of African deserts (they were not always so dry)
  • Human responses to aridity, in both the distant past and today
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