More than half of southern Africa is either arid or semi-arid, encompassing a diversity of biotic ecosystems. As a very rough guideline, southern Africa's "arid zone" is considered to include all areas with a mean annual rainfall of 500 mm or less. The arid zone consists mainly of the Succulent Karoo and Nama Karoo biomes as well as small areas of the Savanna and Grassland biome.
An awareness of potential environmental problems – such as erosion, land degradation, plant and animal species extinctions, and global climate change, among many others – has already substantially influenced agricultural and management policies and research activities in these regions.
The Arid Zone Ecology Forum (AZEF) has been initiated to focus attention on these problems and possible solutions. The first forum was held in 1985 in Zuurberg. In 2012, AZEF registered as a Non-Profit Organisation (NPO).
Main focal areas of research within the arid zone:
- Agricultural degradation
- Ecological prediction
- Applied conservation