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Relief

Relief is the range of topographic variation within a given area (Pidwirny 2008), and is usually measured in differences and variations in elevation.

Relief in the Limpopo River Basin

The terrain of the Limpopo River basin consists largely of an undulating landscape of plains, punctuated with ranges of hills and mountains (CGIAR 2003).  Overall, the basin is generally sub-divided into two large plateau areas - the upland plateau bordered in the north by the highveld in Zimbabwe (Bridges 1990) and in the south by the Waterberg, Strydpoort and Drakensberg Mountains in the south (CGIAR 2003), and the lowland, coastal plateau of north eastern South Africa, south eastern Zimbabwe and southern Mozambique.

The highest point in the entire basin is in the northern Drakensberg mountains of South Africa, at approximately 2 328 m above sea level.  The highest point in Zimbabwe is 1 609 m; the highest point in Mozambique is 530 m above sea-level and 1 510 m in Botswana, near Lobatse*.  

The river valleys of the northward flowing South African tributaries are often deeply incised (up to 600 m in places), in contrast to the flatter bottomed, broad valleys of the rest of the basin (CGIAR 2003).

*These data were extracted from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission digital elevation model and are not official surveyed values (Hatfield 2010).

Map of relief in the Limpopo River basin.
Source: SRTM elevation data - CGIAR 2008
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River Profiles

One useful perspective on relief is a river profile.  While this does not tell the entire story of a river basin, as this is governed by many variables including size, shape, orientation, climate, geology, soil), it provides a snap-shot of the geomorphology of the river that can help with understanding stream flow and the overall regime of the riverRiver profiles are essentially cross-sectional representations of the path of a river, usually taken from source to mouth, or sometimes for specific sections of interest.

Following are a series of River Profiles for the Limpopo River.  They were created using a spatial analysis, performed with Geographic Information System (GIS) software.  The software was used to extract elevation values along the path of the river.  This information is then used to create the cross-section view.

The map below shows all of the sub-basins of the Limpopo River.  The charts below the map show the profiles for the sub-basin rivers, in alphabetical order.

Please note that the Limpopo and Olifants Rivers are displayed as single, continuous profiles.  The sub-basin boundaries are indicated on these profile charts.

Click on one of the sub-basins in the grid below to see a view of the profile.
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Bonwapitse
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Bubi
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Changane
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Crocodile
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Lephalala
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Letaba
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Limpopo
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Lotsane
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Luvuvhu
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Mahalapswe
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Marico
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Matlabas
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Mogalakwena
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Mokolo
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Motloutse
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Mwenezi
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Mzingwani
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Notwane
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Nzhelele
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Olifants
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Sand
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Shashe
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Shingwedzi
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Steelpoort
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