Serengeti National Park

  • Roger N. Scoon


The Serengeti National Park is famous for the open plains (savannahs) that characterise many of the regional plateaus in East Africa. The Serengeti Plains reveal a pronounced westward slope, with elevations decreasing from approximately 1,850 m near the Ngorongoro Highlands to less than 1,000 m near Lake Victoria. The higher elevation in the vicinity of the Ngorongoro Highlands may be due to uplift on the margins of the rift valley. Large parts of the Serengeti are underlain by some of the oldest rocks on Earth, namely greenstones and granite-gneiss of the Archaean-age Central Africa craton. These ancient crystalline rocks crop out in small koppies and elongate hills. The greenstones give rise to black clay soils, almost impossible to drive over, and the granite-gneiss to light-coloured sandy soils. Outcrops of the Mozambique Belt can also be observed as can sedimentary rocks of the Ikorongo Group, the latter occurring as linear ridges in central parts of the park. The age of the Ikorongo is uncertain and they may straddle the boundary between the Neoproterozoic and Cambrian. The youngest rocks occur as a thin cover of volcanic ash; they are restricted to the eastern plains. Three ecosystems are generally identified on the Serengeti Plains, the wooded savannahs and long grass plains of the western and northern areas, and the short grass of the eastern plains. The migration of more than two million grazers is largely controlled by rainfall patterns, but the huge herds that concentrate for a key period in the relatively arid eastern plains are reacting to recent geological events. The nutrient-rich soils that support the short grasses are derived from ashes erupted from the Oldoinyo Lengai Volcano. The Serengeti Plains are drained by large, westward-flowing rivers which are associated with sediment-filled, sinuous channels. Some of the rivers, e.g. the Mara have carved substantial channels down to the bedrock and the sight of groups of several hundred wildebeest crossing the rocky riverbeds during the migration is an unforgettable sight.


Archaean Central African craton Granite-gneiss Greenstones Migration Regional plateau Volcanic ash 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeologyRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

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