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Sudan - Country Profile

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Sudan, the largest country in Africa, occupies about 2.5 million km2, extending from the desert in the north to the equatorial rainforests in the south. This unique geographical coverage makes Sudan one of the richest environments in the diversity of insect species. Rangelands in Sudan are very variable and extend over seven ecological zones: desert, semi-desert, low rainfall savanna on sand, low rainfall on clay, flood region, high rainfall savanna and mountainous regions. These variations support a diversity of vegetation and production systems. Rangelands are showing a decrease of palatable “desirable” species and an increase in unpalatable and invasive species.

The country is also well endowed with underground water, which has hardly been tapped, in addition to numerous seasonal rivers outside the Nile Valley. These natural resources have allowed the build-up of a national herd of livestock, estimated at some 116 million head of cattle, sheep, goats and camels, as well as several million wild animals. The livestock populations are increasing tremendously due to improved veterinary and drinking water services. Livestock accounts for some 20-22% of the country’s GDP and 53-56% of the agricultural GDP. The country is self-sufficient in meat and raw material from hides and skins for industry. Many plant species are grown to meet the demands for food, shelter, clothing, medicine and fodder. The most important crop species, especially during times of drought, are the indigenous fruits and vegetables known as kursan and okra. Gizzu vegetation is an example of unique range plants that grow in desert areas after the scarce rainfall which rarely falls in the desert. The nomads seek the gizzu for highly desirable nutritious winter grazing. The gizzu disappeared from the desert areas during the drought periods for more than 20 years. However, during the last few years, the gizzu has appeared in vast areas of the desert in Darfur.

Special areas with a wealth of rare plant species are found on the Red Sea coast and in the tropical rainforests in the south equatorial region. The wooded highlands of the Nuba Mountains historically held large populations of wildlife, but all recent reports indicate that the civil war led to a massive decline in numbers and diversity, even though forest cover is still substantial. In terms of diversity and abundance, most of the Sudanese wildlife is found within the high rainfall savanna. Surveys indicated that there are still very large numbers of migratory wildlife species remaining in southern Sudan. This group includes the white-eared kob (Kobus kob leucotis), tiang (Damaliscus lunatus), Mongalla gazelle (Eudorcas albontata) and the Red-fronted gazelle (Eudorcas rufifrons) which, together, make up one of the largest mammal land migrations in the world, containing what the survey estimated to be about 1.2 million animals. A comparison of results from aerial surveys from the 1980s with those from 2007 indicate, with a few exceptions, a considerable downward trend for most species to levels estimated 25 years ago (for instance, a decline in large carnivore observations is indicated). Although reduced, there is significant potential for wildlife populations to recover in many areas. The vast wetlands and flood plains of south Sudan, such as the Sudd and the Machar Marshes, are internationally recognized havens for migratory waterfowl.

The Sudanese Red Sea is fortunate to still have attractive and mostly pristine habitats, particularly its coral reefs. There are mangrove stands, sea grass beds, and associated marine fisheries and biodiversity including sharks, dugongs, turtles and a variety of sea birds. Dugongs occur in the Mukawwar Island and Dungonab Bay Marine Protected Area (MPA). The population there may be the most important remaining on the coast of Africa however numbers have declined sharply in recent years. The Dungonab Bay and Mukawwar Island MPA is also a turtle nesting site of regional and possibly international significance and internationally recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA). The Sudanese coastline on the Red Sea is about 750 km long, including bays and inlets. Typical features of the coast are coastal lagoons and sheltered bays (marsas) that form natural harbours and fish landing places. Several of these lagoons are fringed by mangroves represented only by Avicennia marina. Mangrove lagoons and channels are occupied by numerous fish species, including many commercially important species.

In many of the inhabited parts of Sudan, it appears that the population has approached the carrying capacity of the environment under the prevailing agricultural and animal production technologies. Recurrent conflict between cultivators and herders, particularly in the arid zone, is an indicator of the degradation of resources as well as of the growth of human and livestock populations. Many improved high-yielding varieties of different crops are released or introduced at the expense of indigenous landraces and cultivars. At present, the population of Sudan lives off land resources and biodiversity. Although Sudan has started producing and exporting petroleum, it will continue to depend on commodity production for some time to come.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Some of the threats to Sudan’s biodiversity include, among others: civil war, drought (particularly in the semi-desert and savanna ecological zones), fire, over-grazing, imprudent use of natural resources, socio-economic factors, expansion of mono-crop agriculture at the expense of natural resource areas, poaching and smuggling. The majority of mangrove stands are affected, at various levels of severity, by camel grazing, felling and limb cutting. The mangrove at Klanieb is affected, in addition, by hydrological changes (channels and salt production ponds). Dieback of Sunt (Acacia nilotica) is the most serious epidemic affecting many riverain forests. Termites are a serious problem in Eucalyptus plantations. Insect attack on seed has probably more effect on natural regeneration of certain species (e.g. Acacias, Balanites aegyptiaca, Combretum spp.). The tree locust attacks acacias (especially the gum tree, Senegalia Senegal), with outbreaks affecting gum Arabic production. The increase in forest-dependent populations preempts sustainable forest management and restraint in the implementation of forest policies. Decision-makers and the public underestimate forests values and their role in socio-economic development and environmental protection. There is severe over-fishing for sea cucumbers in the vicinity of Dungonab Bay, where sea cucumbers have been fished out from many shallow areas forcing divers to travel further and exploit deeper waters. Fishing pressure has been intense at spawning and nursery sites for Nagil and other species, especially at the southern end of Mukawwar Island. Continuation of this form of fishing will undoubtedly lead to the loss of some of the most important fisheries species. The cause of Dugong decline is most likely accidental capture in fixed fishing nets.

The migration of the population from rural areas to cities and big towns, due to insecurity or economic reasons, has negatively affected the agrobiodiversity used and conserved by the people. Pressures on habitats are increasing with more areas opened to development and investors. Investment budgets for natural resources conservation and development are not sufficiently prioritized or allocated adequate economic incentives. Domestic markets and marketing channels for local natural resources products are inadequate; natural resources have been subjected to heavy overexploitation for agriculture, felling for fuel and overgrazing to the extent that extensive stretches of land lie bare of vegetation.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Sudan completed its NBSAP in 2000. The ultimate goal of the action plan is the conservation of the components of Sudan’s biological diversity to enhance opportunities for their utilization. The intermediate goals are: filling the gaps in scientific knowledge; agricultural biodiversity; forestry provenance research; documentation; property rights; organizational structures; requirements for start-up; Nile water development projects; Sudan’s environment debt and economic valuation.

A national partial census is conducted twice a year along the Nile Flyway. The recommendation of the NBSAP was taken into consideration in the inclusion of ecosystems not previously included in the protected areas. The development of management plans for Dinder National Park (DNP), Sanganeb and Dongoab can be attributed to the implementation of the NBSAP, GEF and the African Parks funds. The management of DNP is based on the concept of biosphere reserves and succeeds in raising awareness among neighboring communities, establishing Village Development Committees (VDCs) and adapting models for alternative livelihood.

The NBSAP is considered inadequate to address the identified threats to biodiversity. Initiatives to build capacity within the Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources (HCENR), Wildlife Conservation General Administration and the Wildlife Research Center are urgently required.

Sudan has initiated activities regarding NBSAP revision, including the establishment of targets based on the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Welcome Tropical Research Laboratories in Khartoum began insect collection and identification efforts in Sudan in 1902. Since then, intensive surveys have been conducted to cover all geographical regions of the country. Although the national insect collection concentrates on insect species of agricultural and environmental importance, it is considered one of the largest and oldest insect collections in Africa. Collected and identified insect species in Sudan comprise about 15 orders, 248 families and over 4000 species. A regionally applicable manual of standard survey methods for marine protected areas (MPAs) has been prepared by PERSGA. Ecological and socio-economic surveys have been completed at the Mukawwar Island and Dungonab Bay MPA. Site-specific master plans, with management guidelines, have been written up for the Mukawwar Island and Dungonab Bay Marine Protected Area (MPA), with the involvement and participation of local stakeholders.

The most important role of non-wood forest products (NWFPs) is its provision of self-reliance, employment and food security to the local economy. Many communities in Sudan receive income from collection, processing and marketing of local products. Gum Arabic, in particular, is an important off-farm activity for the inhabitants of the Gum Arabic Belt. In 2013, a forum organized by the HCENR addressed valuation aspects of the agrobiodiversity ecosystem of the Gum Arabic Belt, including the economic impact of climate change in the Gum Arabic Belt of North Kordofan. A recent survey revealed that, on average, 19% of the total household income is gained from activities related to gum Arabic. Plantations (mostly of the fast-growing Eucalyptus) provide considerable employment in terms of casual labour, as well as supply much of the market demand for poles and fuelwood. Private farmers in Jebel Marra and the Gezira have reacted positively to the Forests National Corporation’s (FNC) messages regarding forestry extension and planted their own woodlots. As the wood market is currently deficient of supplies, especially in the central and northern parts of the country, it is expected that private and community forest plantations are going to increase. The FNC has also carried out considerable conservation efforts which have resulted in large areas being designated as reserved forests. Many amendments have been made by the FNC to the existing forestry laws, ordinances and acts to enhance in situ and ex situ conservation.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Mainstreaming overall remains weak although concern for biodiversity integration in policies and planning has improved. Notably, the Forests National Corporation (FNC) has incorporated biodiversity conservation in all of its policies. Also, biodiversity has been integrated into Sudan’s climate change strategies.

Sudan has links to a number of international and regional frameworks related to agrobiodiversity. Synergies among actions for implementing the Rio Conventions (CBD, UNFCCC, UNCCD) have also been identified and followed up with capacity-building programmes for HCENR staff. Training has been provided on issues such as taxonomy, awareness-raising as a cross-cutting issue, land use planning, strengthening of community-based natural resources management, among others. Although some progress has been achieved in Sudan in regard to agrobiodiversity conservation, this has been achieved under inadequate infrastructure, unclear policy and weak legislative frameworks.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The monitoring of Dinder National Park was carried out by the Dinder Project. Regarding the Dungonab Bay and Mukawwar Island MPA, a general lack of enforcement exists, as does a lack of management expertise and experience, with oftentimes weak implementation of management plans. As for development projects, follow-up and impact assessment are covered by the application of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), however much improvement is needed in the manner in which EIAs are approved and/or conducted.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme