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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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Mountains in a 'Sand Sea'

Mountains in a 'Sand Sea'



Addax antelope (credit: Wikicommons)



The Air Mountains & Tenere Reserve rise from a 'sea of sand' in Niger's Sahara Desert. The volcanic mountains are the result of circular lava chambers that solidified and then uplifted over millennia. The landscape is a designated a World Heritage site. The massif is both geologically and ecologically unique as the surrounding Sahara is a barrier to plant and animal migrations. Many species on these mountains are effectively isolated on an "island" this is removed from interacting with other speices due to the sand dunes and the vastness of the Sahara Desert surrounding them.


           Sand dunes and Air Mountains reserve, Niger (credit: Wikicommons and NASA Terra mission)

According to field studies, the diversity of habitats -- stone deserts, highlands, plateaus, and water holes -- support multiple species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and one amphibian. The landscape also offers essential habitat for desert antelopes, gazelles, and the critically endangered Addax antelope. The rugged landscape also supports plants and trees including acacias, palms, olives, and the wild relatives of several cultivated crops. The Air Mountain reserve covers approximately 30,000 square miles and is Africa's largest protected area.

An image taken by NASA's Terra Mission shows the contrasting barren sands and vegetated uplands.


                                Air & Tenere Reserve, Niger   (credit: Mission Terra)

Commonly, massifs like the Air mountains can often harbor endemic and unique plants and animals there. The mountains are difficult to reach but such isolated locations known as 'sky islands' are great places to explore.


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