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Distribution of Plants & Animals in Africa & the Middle East

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  • 0:00 Diversity of Life
  • 0:30 Plant Life in the Middle East
  • 1:35 Plant Life in Africa
  • 2:30 Animal Life in Africa
  • 3:15 Animal Life in the Middle East
  • 4:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Humans have had a lot of influence on their surroundings in Africa and the Middle East, from causing deforestation to hunting out entire species of animals. In this lesson, learn how plants and wildlife have been distributed in these regions.

Diversity of Life

Throughout the Middle East and Africa, climate and landforms have had massive impacts on both plant and animal life. After all, the penguins that thrive on the islands off the shore of South Africa are not likely to be found in the deserts of Arabia! However, more than many other regions, the role of human beings is very apparent here. Humans have been crucial in not only encouraging the growth of certain forms of life, but also in completely eradicating others.

Plant Life in the Middle East

When you think of the Middle East, you probably immediately think of desert. Granted, this is a region that is well known for being arid. However, this is also a region that first saw humanity domesticate many crops, or tame crops to be grown by people. Wheat, barley, dates, olives and even the ingredients for many perfumes were first grown throughout much of the Middle East. That tells us that many parts of the region are surprisingly fertile. Again, landforms matter. Palm trees and date trees line the borders of many desert oases, but the crops of wheat and barley are isolated to the fertile plateaus of Iran and Turkey, as well as the river valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Olive orchards can be found throughout the Levant along the Mediterranean, while the incense and other perfume ingredients prized the world over grow best in isolated parts of Yemen.

Plant Life in Africa

To the South and West, Africa may look less touched by humans, but that is not necessarily the case. In fact, the Sahara is growing at an alarming rate every year because of the deforestation along its Southern boundaries, where all the trees are cut down. Deforestation is a problem in other parts of Africa as well, primarily in the rain forests of Central and Western Africa.

Still, a surprising amount of diversity is found in those rain forests. Unlike parts of the Middle East, where a few wild grasses may dominate uncultivated lands, the plant growth in these forests is nothing short of incredibly diverse. From mosses to giant trees, there is an awesome diversity of plant life in these jungles. On the outskirts of the jungles, grass-based mono-cultures make up much of the Savanna, where the big game of Africa thrives.

Animal Life in Africa

In fact, Africa is home to many of the world's most diverse large animals. Elephants, lions, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses and wildebeests make their homes here. So do wild dogs, smaller cats, small mammals, crocodiles and virtually everything in between. On the domestic side of things, herders manage groups of camels, cattle, sheep and goats. Many of the larger animals have long found themselves victims of human hunting, especially rhinoceroses and elephants. As a result of ivory poaching, the numbers of these animals have dwindled across the continent.

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