Land and Resources, Geology and Soils
High Veld, iron compounds, Witwatersrand, fertile soils, moderate temperatures
Underlying the plateaus is a great complex of crystalline rocks. These rocks were worn down over millions of years to form an almost level surface and are covered in places by thick layers of sandstone and shale. The layers are nearly horizontal except in the southwest, where extensive folding has formed irregular hills and mountains. In the Witwatersrand and the Middle Veld the underlying bedrock is exposed.
The major soil zones are conditioned largely by climatic factors. In the semiarid north and west, soils are alkaline and poorly developed. In southern Western Cape Province, rain falls mostly in the winter months, and soils there form slowly and are generally thin and immature. The moderate temperatures and summer rainfall of the High Veld and eastern coastal areas create conditions for more productive organic decomposition, leading to dark, fertile soils, or chernozems, similar to those of the North American prairies. Further north and northeast, where temperatures are high and summer rainfall is relatively heavy, soils are reddish, contain aluminum and iron compounds, and are less fertile.
Article key phrases: