EPOW - Ecology Picture of the Week

Each week a different image of our fascinating environment is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional ecologist.

10-16 November 2003

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Nyika Plateau, Malawi


Nyika Plateau National Park, Malawi, southern Africa

Credit & Copyright: Dr. Bruce G. Marcot
Explanation:  You are standing on a vast native grassland that sprawls across northern Malawi and eastern Zambia, Africa.  Stretching to the horizon in every direction is a rare untouched vista of an isolated, highland world of zebra, bushbuck, francolins, roan, aardvarks, eland, bustards, ravens, marsh owls, grass owls, honey badgers, bushpigs, servals, genets, and many other wildlife species.  

You are on the amazing Nyika ("NEE-kah") Plateau at over 7,000 feet elevation (2100 m).   It was the punster who said that "a plateau is a high form of flattery."  Quite so.

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Nyika Plateau National Park is in a remote corner of Africa not often visited.  The plateau is home to many unique plant and animal communities, including scattered woodland patches and disjunct stands of tropical evergreen forest.  Many grassland plant species found there can serve as important ecological indicators of this endangered ecosystem.

What makes Nyika Plateau ecologically unique is its high elevation, its remoteness, and especially its lack of human disturbance that is otherwise so common throughout most of southern and central Africa.  

High plateaus often house unique species and ecological communities. Other examples include the tapuis of Venezuela, the plateau of Noel Kempff Mercado National Park in northeastern Bolivia, the Columbia River Plateau of the interior West  U.S., Balpakram Plateau National Park in western Meghalaya, India, and the "sky island" mountaintops of southwestern U.S.  

Next week's picture:  Fibonacci Spirals Are Everywhere

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