The Afrotropic ecozone includes all of Africa south of the Sahara, parts of Iran, Pakistan and the Arabian pennisula, as well as Madagascar and islands of the Indian Ocean.
With the exception of the southern tip the Afrotropic zone is exclusively tropical. To the north a belt of deserts, including the Sahara, separate the Afrotropic from the Palearctic ecozone, which includes northern Africa and temperate Eurasia.
Endemic fauna of the Afrotropics includes the cichlids of the East African Great Lakes which harbour more than two-thirds of the 2,000 species in the family, ostriches, guineafowl and several families of passerines. Africa also contains three endemic orders of mammals: aardvarks, Afrosoricida (tenrecs and golden moles) and elephant shrews. The East-African plains are dominated by large mammals. Four species of Great Apes (Hominidae) are endemic to Africa: both species of Gorilla and both species of Chimpanzee. Humans and their ancestors originated in Africa.
Coastal cliffs are the rocky land edges that face the sea. These are complex and diverse habitats that lie above the water line, where exposure to salty spray, wind, sun and rain all play their part, as does the type of rock.
Desert and dry scrubland describes any area that receives less than 250mm of rainfall a year. Not just the endless, baking sand dunes of popular conception, it includes arid areas in temperate regions.
Flooded grasslands are the half grassland, half wetland typified by the Florida Everglades, the marshes of Southern Iraq and the Pantanal of Brazil. They may be permanently or seasonally flooded, which has an obvious effect on what kinds of plant and animal species found here.
Mangrove forests grow on tropical coasts with soft soils and are flooded twice daily by the tide. They are important nursery areas for many species of fish.
Mediterranean forest includes the fynbos of South Africa, the matorral of Chile and forests in parts of California. Hot, dry summers, contrast with much milder, wetter winters.
Mountain grasslands such as those in the Ethiopian highlands, on the Tibetan Plateau and up in the Andes, include the alpine tundra above the treeline as well as grasslands below it. These high altitude grasslands often exist as isolated 'islands' in a sea of another habitat type.
Rainforests are the world's powerhouses, the most vital habitats on the planet. Characterised by high rainfall, they only cover 6% of the Earth across the tropical regions, but they contain more than half of its plant and animal species.
Temperate grasslands include the prairies of North America, the steppes of Russia and the pampas of Argentina. Summers here are mild to hot and the winters can sometimes be very cold – for instance, blizzards can blanket the great plains of the United States.
Tropical dry forests, in contrast to rainforest, have to survive a long dry season each year, so the predominantly deciduous trees shed their leaves to cope with it. Sunlight can then reach the ground, so the season that's bad for the trees is good for the forest floor.
Tropical grasslands include the savanna usually associated with Africa, and savanna-type grasslands found in India, Australia, Nepal and the Americas. They are characterised by drought-resistant shrubs and grasses, dotted with trees such as acacias or baobabs.
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