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The Limpopo River Basin
 Basin Landscape
 Vegetation in the Basin
Land Cover
 Basins of Southern Africa
 River Basin and IWRM
Climate and Weather
Water Quality
Ecology and Biodiversity
Sub-basin Summaries



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Land Cover  

Using the USGS/IGBP Global Land Cover Characteristics dataset (Loveland et al. 2000) as a base for analysis, the land cover of the Limpopo River basin is relatively hetereogenous, with four main classes dominating the landscape:

  • Cultivated agriculture
  • Savanna
  • Grassland
  • Shrubland

This information agrees with several other regional and global estimates of land cover, including the Global Land Cover Facility data (2005) and World Resources Institute (2003).

The distribution of the main landcover classes across the Limpopo River basin are shown in the map, table and chart below.

Primary landcover classes of the Limpopo River basin.
Source: USGS/IGBP 2010
( click to enlarge )

Summary of main generalised land cover for the Limpopo River basin.

Landcover type Area (Ha) Percentage of total
Bareground 112,154 <1
Cultivated land/grassland 21,678,104 53
Grassland 10,306,742 25
Savanna 8,067,132 20
Shrubland 192,269 <1
Forest 481,043 1
Urban 48,014 <1
Waterbodies 228,714 <1
Total 41,114,172  
Source: Hatfield/ USGS 2010.
Relative proportion of land cover in the Limpopo River basin.
( click to enlarge )

Land Cover Data Availability

Although there are national land cover datasets available for all of the Limpopo River basin states and in some cases several iterations over a period of time; each country uses a different method to create the data and a different legend or classification scheme.  There is some similarity between the assessments completed for Mozambique and South Africa, as their classification schema are both based upon the FAO AFRICOVER system; however, Botswana and Zimbabwe use completely different classification systems.

There are a variety of global datasets available, such as the USGS/IGBP dataset used above.  However, to meet the requirements water resources management planning at a basin scale, it is important that a higher resolution data set is developed.  There are several approaches to solving this problem.  The first is to complete a new assessment of land cover for the Limpopo River basin, based upon new satellite imagery and field work.  The second option would be to develop a consistent land cover map from existing land cover data and supporting information the basin.  While the second option may result in a lower confidence result that has the potential to date quickly, it would be a relatively cost effective exercise to undertake.

Typical land cover in the Limpopo River basin.
Source: Schaefer 2010
( click to enlarge )



Explore the sub-basins of the Limpopo River

Explore the interactions of living organisms in aquatic environments

Examine how the hydrologic cycle moves water through and around the earth

Tour video scenes along the Limpopo related to The River Basin Theme