The Living Deserts of Southern Africa

Barry Lovegrove

Divided into ten chapters, The Living Deserts of Southern Africa details the biology of desert plants (biggest desert biodiversity hotspot in the world) and animals and discusses their conservation and future threats.
Date Published :
January 2022
Publisher :
Penguin Random House South Africa
Illustration :
c. 450 photograps; 25 maps, diagrams and illustrations
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Hardback
ISBN : 9781775847045
Pages : 296
Dimensions : 10.4 X 8.4 inches
Stock Status : In stock


For generations the deserts of southern Africa have fascinated scientists and travelers alike. They teem with life – from ants to elephants, stone plants and colorful daisies to the curious welwitschia, dainty dik-diks to towering gemsbok, and cart-wheeling spiders to fog-basking beetles, all survive against the odds in the fragile desert ecosystem. How do they cope with scarce resources, unpredictable rainfall and extreme temperatures, and how do they protect themselves against predators while also ensuring species survival?

In this fully revised and updated edition, Barry Lovegrove unravels many of the mysteries associated with life in the region’s four desert biomes: Desert, Arid Savanna, Succulent Karoo and Nama-Karoo. He explains how and why such a great diversity of plants and insects, mammals, reptiles and birds successfully exist in these regions, illustrating many of his examples with spectacular photographs, supported by diagrams and maps.

Drawing on the latest scientific research, the text is designed and presented in a highly readable style, and accessible to both the serious student and academic as well as the interested nature lover. The book is as much a plea for sensible management of these sensitive areas as it is a fount of fascinating information.

About The Author

Barry Lovegrove is Professor Emeritus at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He obtained his PhD under the supervision of Gideon Louw from the University of Cape Town in 1987, whereafter he undertook post-doctoral studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Phillips University, Marburg, Germany, the latter on an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship. Barry is an evolutionary physiologist and is an National Research Foundation A-rated scientist. He spent his whole career trying to understand the diversity of metabolic adaptations in birds and mammals. His work culminated in the book Fires of Life: Endothermy in Birds and Mammals (Yale University Press, 2019). In 2017 he gave the prestigious Irving-Scholander Memorial Lecture in Fairbanks, Alaska.


Chapter One – The deserts of southern Africa
Chapter Two – Water: the currency of life
Chapter Three – In the heat of the day
Chapter Four – The struggle for food
Chapter Five – The armoury of desert conflicts
Chapter Six – Social contracts
Chapter Seven – Time out
Chapter Eight – Go forth and multiply
Chapter Nine – The Ancient Karoo: A Palaeontological Wonderland
Chapter Ten – The future of the deserts

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