The GLTP comprises a vast area of the lowland savannah ecosystem, not only in the Transfrontier Park itself, but also in the conservation area that will be reintegrated for joint management. This ecosystem is bisected by the Lebombo Mountains running along the border between South Africa and Mozambique. Five major river systems cross this eco region in a generally west-east flow. The dry savannah is maintained due to a relatively low average rainfall of about 550 mm per year.
The four main landscapes include lowland plains savannah in the majority of the area, a somewhat hilly granite plateau in the western portions, the Lebombo Mountains that rise to an average of only 500 m above sea level, and the floodplain riverbank areas along the Save, Changane, Limpopo, Olifants, Shingwedzi and Komati rivers.
Geographically the GLTP features two spectacular Cliff landscapes in Chilojo Cliffs in Gonarezhou National Park and Shingwedzi Cliffs in Limpopo National Park.
There are five major types of vegetation, namely Mopane woodlands and shrubveld in the northern portions, mixed bushveld in the southern half, sandveld in the south eastern areas of Mozambique, riverine woodlands mostly in Kruger and Gonarezhou, and seasonally flooded and dry grasslands in and around Banhine National Park. These are further described below.
Mopane woodland and shrubveld
Dominated by Colophospermum mopane, these communities are a very conspicuous feature of the northern half of the Transfrontier Park and develop on poorly-drained clays and sandy-clay soils. Whereas vast areas are almost completely covered by this species with only minimal representation of other trees, mixed communities do exist where trees such as Combretum apiculatum also form a strong presence, especially in the western part of the Transfrontier Park. More localised areas exist where mopane mixed with stands of Spirostachys africana, Adansonia digitata or various species of Commiphora also form conspicuous communities. Two types of mopane stands prevail: vast stretches of mopane-shrubveld, and more localized areas of tall mopane forest usually associated with hill-country. Although often regarded as poor game-viewing habitat they are used by a wide range of animal, bird and invertebrate species and are thus important components of the ecosystem. Elephant and buffalo populations thrive in this habitat.
These communities occur mainly in the southern half of the Transfrontier Park and are dominated by Acacia nigrescens, Combretum paniculatum, Combretum imberbe, Sclerocarya birrea, and Dichrostachys cinerea. These habitats form the prime game-viewing areas and within the Kruger National Park (and potentially Mozambique) have large herds of zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, giraffe, impala, and other species associated with them, together with species such as rhino and elephant.
These areas occur mainly within Mozambique and are distinctive with a very diverse range of plant species associated with them, making them important areas for biodiversity conservation. Typical trees found here include Bapphia massaiensis, Afzelia quanzensis, Strychnos spp., Terminalia sericea, Albizia spp., and others. Certain species of mammals (e.g. springhare) and birds confine themselves to this habitat. They are also the only places in which very species of fish are found, such as the lungfish and killifish Nothobranchius.
Tall woodland exists along most river courses in Kruger Park and Gonarezhou and to some extent in parts of the Mozambican portion of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. Notable species in this vegetation community include Trichilia emetica, Ficus sycomorus, Xanthocercis zambesiaca, Diospyros mespiliformis, Acacia robusta, Acacia xanthophloea, Kigelia africana and the palms Phoenix reclinata and Hyphaene natalensis. Although only a narrow band rarely exceeding 150metres in width on each bank, these riverine forests represent a diverse and specialised habitat offering refuge for many mammal species (e.g. elephant shrews, nyala, bushbuck, and hippo) and birds which are strongly associated with such habitats.
The vast numbers of wildlife and plant species found here are the building blocks of successful ecotourism. These include at least 147 mammals, 116 reptiles, 49 species of fish, 34 different species of frogs, and an incredible 500 or more species of birds. In addition, at least 2 000 species of plants have been identified.