Vegetation of Mauritania
The vegetation of Mauritania is very poorly wooded, with less than 1 percent of forest cover and about 4 percent of other wooded lands. It is the aridest Sahel country and the Sahara occupies two-thirds of it so that most of its woody vegetation is found along its southern edge. This vegetation consists mainly of sub-Sahelian savannah, with such species as Guiera Senegalenses, Ziziphus spp. and Acacia spp. There is a transitional zone containing Acacia spp. shrubland.
The country’s main forest resources are located along the Senegal River in the southwest of the country and there are also closed stands along the edge of the Sudanian zone. Formerly the home of varied closed forests, this zone is now dominated by Acacia nilotica in areas that are flooded each year by flood flows. The coast has an abundance of halophytic vegetation dominated by bushy shrubs. Residual mangroves are found in the Trarza region of the Senegal River delta, but the mangroves have practically disappeared.
The open forests and tree savannahs of the south are found outside the Senegal valley, occupying dune regions and consisting mainly of species producing gum arabic (Acacia Senegal). Isolated palm stands (Phoenix dactylifera) are found in wadi valleys and in oases in sandy plains (in the center and central south of the country). The under storeys are usually composed of fruit trees and bushes, combined with fodder species and household crops.
FAO estimates that in 2000 the forest cover was slightly less than 317 000 ha. There was an annual loss of about 9 800 ha, or 2.7 percent, between 1990 and 2000. The only forest inventory carried out in Mauritania dates back to 1982 and covers only the southwest of the country so that estimates have been made by extrapolation. Between 1977 and 1999, there was an annual loss of about 5 percent in the reserved forests in the Trarza region and about 3 percent in those in the Brakna region. The main causes of the loss of cover are drought, fires, overgrazing, and clearing for agriculture.
Desertification is a major problem in Mauritania, with the Sahara gaining thousands of hectares each year. Over the past 200 years, and especially in recent decades, the levels of underground water have fallen by many meters, and this has brought profound changes in the vegetation. Mauritania is in the front line in the battle against environmental degradation and desertification.
The country has a modest network of protected areas, which at present comprise nine reserves, covering only 1.7 percent of the country. The first protected area, the El-Aguer Wildlife Reserve, was created in 1937, while the Banc d’Arguin National Park (1 million hectares) dates back to 1976. Then in 1991, after about ten years¿ of preparatory studies, the second national park, Diawling, was created on the right bank of the Senegal River. The long planning period meant that close dialogue could be established with the local people living on the edges of the park. A major feature of the management plan was finding solutions to problems affecting these people’s standard of living.
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