Succulent Karoo

Last updated
Succulent Karoo
Surafrica, Goegap 01.jpg
Goegap Nature Reserve, South Africa
AT1322 map.png
Location of the Succulent Karoo ecoregion
Realm Afrotropical
Biome deserts and xeric shrublands
Borders Nama Karoo, Namib Desert, Lowland fynbos and renosterveld, and Montane fynbos and renosterveld
Area102,700 km2 (39,700 sq mi)
Countries South Africa and Namibia
Conservation status Relatively stable [1]
Protected2352 km² (2%) [1]
Map of the two Karoo ecoregions as delineated by the WWF. Satellite image from NASA. The yellow line encloses the two ecoregions. The green line separates the Succulent Karoo, on the west, from the Nama Karoo, on the east. National boundaries are shown in black. Karoo ecoregion.jpg
Map of the two Karoo ecoregions as delineated by the WWF. Satellite image from NASA. The yellow line encloses the two ecoregions. The green line separates the Succulent Karoo, on the west, from the Nama Karoo, on the east. National boundaries are shown in black.

The Succulent Karoo is a ecoregion defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature to include regions of desert in South Africa and Namibia, [2] and a biodiversity hotspot. The geographic area chosen by the WWF for what they call 'Succulent Karoo' does not correspond to the actual Karoo.



The Succulent Karoo stretches along the coastal strip of southwestern Namibia and South Africa's Northern Cape Province, where the cold Benguela Current offshore creates frequent fogs. The ecoregion extends inland into the uplands of South Africa's Western Cape Province. It is bounded on the south by the Mediterranean climate fynbos, on the east by the Nama Karoo, which has more extreme temperatures and variable rainfall, and on the north by the Namib Desert.


The Succulent Karoo is notable for the world's richest flora of succulent plants, and harbours about one-third of the world’s approximately 10,000 succulent species. 40% of its succulent plants are endemic. [3] The region is extraordinarily rich in geophytes, harbouring approximately 630 species.


The ecoregion is a centre of diversity and endemism for reptiles and many invertebrates. Of the ecoregion’s 50 scorpion species, 22 are endemic. Monkey beetles, largely endemic to southern Africa, are concentrated in the Succulent Karoo and are important pollinators of the flora. So, too, are the Hymenoptera and masarine wasps, and colletid, fideliid, and melittid bees. [1]

Approximately 15 amphibians are found in this ecoregion, including three endemics; among the region’s 115 reptile species, 48 are endemic and 15 are strict endemics.[ clarification needed ] The Sperrgebiet region is a hotspot for an unusual tortoise, the Nama padloper. Endemism is present, but less pronounced, among the Succulent Karoo’s bird and mammal populations. [1]


The ecoregion has been designated a biodiversity hotspot by Conservation International.

Related Research Articles

Fynbos Shrubland and heathland ecoregion of southwestern South Africa

Fynbos is a small belt of natural shrubland or heathland vegetation located in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa. This area is predominantly coastal and mountainous, with a Mediterranean climate and rainy winters. The fynbos ecoregion is within the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub biome. In fields related to biogeography, fynbos is known for its exceptional degree of biodiversity and endemism, consisting about 80% species of the Cape floral kingdom where nearly 6,000 of them are endemic. This land continues to face severe human-caused threats, but due to the many economic uses of the fynbos, conservation efforts are being made to help restore it.

Deserts and xeric shrublands Habitat type defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature

Deserts and xeric shrublands are a biome defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature. Deserts and xeric shrublands form the largest terrestrial biome, covering 19% of Earth's land surface area. Ecoregions in this habitat type vary greatly in the amount of annual rainfall they receive, usually less than 250 millimetres (10 in) annually except in the margins. Generally evaporation exceeds rainfall in these ecoregions. Temperature variability is also diverse in these lands. Many deserts, such as the Sahara, are hot year-round, but others, such as East Asia's Gobi, become quite cold in winter.

A biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region with significant levels of biodiversity that is threatened by human habitation.

Endemism Ecological state of being unique to a defined geographic location or habitat

Endemism is the state of a species being native to a single defined geographic location, such as an island, state, nation, country or other defined zone; organisms that are indigenous to a place are not endemic to it if they are also found elsewhere. For example, the Cape sugarbird is found exclusively in southwestern South Africa and is therefore said to be endemic to that particular part of the world.

Madagascar subhumid forests

The Madagascar subhumid forests are a tropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion that covers most of the Central Highlands of the island of Madagascar. They are included in the WWF's Global 200 list of outstanding ecoregions. Most of the original habitats have been lost due to human pressure.

Maputaland–Pondoland bushland and thickets Montane shrubland ecoregion in South Africa

The Maputaland-Pondoland bushland and thickets is one of the ecoregions of South Africa. It consists of the montane shrubland biome.

Sri Lanka montane rain forests Ecoregion in Sri Lanka

The Sri Lanka montane rain forests is an ecoregion found above 1,000 m in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. Owing to their rich biodiversity, this region considered a super-hotspot within the endemism hotspot of global importance. These forests are cooler than lowland forests and therefore they have ideal conditions for growth of cloud forests. These forests classifications tropical sub montane forest, tropical sub-montane and tropical upper montane. Half of Sri Lanka's endemic flowering plants and 51 percent of the endemic vertebrates are restricted to these forests. More than 34 percent of Sri Lanka's endemic trees, shrubs, and herbs can only be found in this ecoregion. Twisted, stunted trees are a common sight in these forests, together with many varieties of orchids, mosses and ferns. The trees of montane rain forests grow to a height 10–15 meters, shorter than the lowland rain forest trees. These high altitude forests are the catchment area for most of Sri Lanka's major rivers.


The Richtersveld is a desert landscape characterised by rugged kloofs and high mountains, situated in the north-western corner of South Africa’s Northern Cape province. It is full of changing scenery from flat, sandy, coastal plains, to craggy sharp mountains of volcanic rock and the lushness of the Orange River, which forms the border with neighboring Namibia. The area ranges in altitude from sea level, to 1,377 m (4,518 ft) at Cornellberg. Located in the north-eastern side of the Northern Cape province in South Africa, the Richtersveld is regarded as the only arid biodiversity hotspot on earth and the majority of the area is inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List due to its cultural values.

Eastern Arc Mountains

The Eastern Arc Mountains is a chain of mountains found in Kenya and Tanzania. The chain runs from northeast to southwest, with the Taita Hills being in Kenya and the other ranges being in Tanzania. They are delimited on the southwest by the fault complex represented by the Makambako Gap that separates them from the Kipengere Range. To the northeast, they are delimited by more recent volcanism represented by Mount Kilimanjaro. The chain is considered a Tentative World Heritage Site.

Wildlife of Namibia Flora and fauna of the country in southern Africa

The wildlife of Namibia is composed of its flora and fauna. Namibia's endangered species include wild dog, black rhino, oribi and puku.

Wildlife of South Africa Flora and fauna of the country

The wildlife of South Africa consists of the flora and fauna of this country in southern Africa. The country has a range of different habitat types and an ecologically rich and diverse wildlife, vascular plants being particularly abundant, many of them endemic to the country. There are few forested areas, much savanna grassland, semi-arid Karoo vegetation and the fynbos of the Cape Floristic Region. Famed for its national parks and big game, 297 species of mammal have been recorded in South Africa, as well as 858 species of bird and over 20,000 species of vascular plants.

Namaqua National Park South African national park in Namaqualand in the Northern Cape

Namaqua National Park is a South African national park situated approximately 495 km north of Cape Town and 22 km northwest of Kamieskroon. It has an area of more than 1300 km2. The park is part of Namaqualand, an area covering 55,000 km2 located within the semi-desert Succulent Karoo biome. This biome is a biodiversity hotspot with the largest concentration of succulent plants in the world. The park also has an arid environment with succulent plants. The park was created to protect its flowers. During the spring, wildflowers bloom there in a spectacular fashion. The park's main tourist attraction is this abundant spring bloom of brightly coloured wildflowers.

Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Hotspot Southern Africa biodiversity hotspot

The Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Hotspot (MPA) is a biodiversity hotspot, a biogeographic region with significant levels of biodiversity, in Southern Africa. It is situated near the south-eastern coast of Africa, occupying an area between the Great Escarpment and the Indian Ocean. The area is named after Maputaland, Pondoland and Albany. It stretches from the Albany Centre of Plant Endemism in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, through the Pondoland Centre of Plant Endemism and KwaZulu-Natal Province, the eastern side of Eswatini and into southern Mozambique and Mpumalanga. The Maputaland Centre of Plant Endemism is contained in northern KwaZulu-Natal and southern Mozambique.

Biogeographic classification of India Wikipedia article on biogeography of India

Biogeographic classification of India is the division of India according to biogeographic characteristics. Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species (biology), organisms, and ecosystems in geographic space and through geological time. India has a rich heritage of natural diversity. India ranks fourth in Asia and tenth in the world amongst the top 17 mega-diverse countries in the world. India harbours nearly 11% of the world’s floral diversity comprising over 17500 documented flowering plants, 6200 endemic species, 7500 medicinal plants and 246 globally threatened species in only 2.4% of world’s land area. India is also home to four biodiversity hotspots—Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Eastern Himalaya, Indo-Burma region, and the Western Ghats. Hence the importance of biogeographical study of India's natural heritage.

The Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve is located in the southern part of South Africa. It is divided into four connected sectors ranging from sea level to 2,240 metres. The area is the only place in the world where three recognized biodiversity hotspots converge. The site is characterized by high endemism of plant species and threatened invertebrates including seven endemic species of the enigmatic beetle genus Colophon and 14 butterfly species. It provides a migratory route for large mammals such as the leopard and serves as a nursery for marine species.

Tumbes–Piura dry forests

The Tumbes–Piura dry forests (NT0232) is an arid tropical ecoregion along the Pacific coasts of southern Ecuador and northern Peru. The ecoregion contains many endemic species of flora and birds adapted to the short wet season followed by a long dry season. Threats include extraction of wood for fuel or furniture, and capture of wild birds for sale.

The Albany Centre of Plant Endemism is situated in the coastal region of South Africa at the eastern end of the Eastern Cape Province. It is named after the district of Albany and falls within the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Hotspot. It is notable for its biodiversity and unique, endemic flora and fauna.

Namibian savanna woodlands

The Namibian savanna woodlands, also known as the Namib escarpment woodlands, are deserts and xeric shrublands ecoregion of Namibia and Angola.

The Indian Ocean coastal belt is one of the nine recognised biomes of South Africa. They are described in terms of their vegetation and climatic variations.

The Biodiversity of South Africa is the variety of living organisms within the boundaries of South Africa and its exclusive economic zone. South Africa is a region of high biodiversity in the terrestrial and marine realms. The country is ranked sixth out of the world's seventeen megadiverse countries, and is rated among the top 10 for plant species diversity and third for marine endemism.


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Succulent Karoo". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund.
  2. Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Succulent Karoo Protected Areas - UNESCO World Heritage Centre". Retrieved 2017-07-13.
  3. "Succulent Karoo - The Environmental Literacy Council". The Environmental Literacy Council. Retrieved 2017-07-13.