Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services
Mauritania is a West African country located in the Sahel-Saharan region, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara. In the last 25 years, the country has experienced three long periods of drought. The agricultural sector (agriculture and livestock) contributes approximately 18% to the country’s GDP, with livestock (cattle, camels, sheeps, goats) representing 80% of this figure. Extensive agriculture is practiced however in recent years there has been a shift to other forms of agriculture, such as suburban agriculture, and to the creation of artificial insemination centres. Only 11.5% of the area under agricultural production is irrigated; irrigated crops include cereals, such as rice, corn, sorghum, wheat and barley and various vegetable crops, that are exposed to stresses from drought and desertification. Most notably, agricultural production covers only 40% of the food needs of the Mauritanian people.
The fish industry is also an important economic sector, representing 10% of the country’s GDP and between 35-50% of its exports. It is estimated that artisanal fishing provides employment for 31% of the population. Although industrial fishing is responsible for 90% of catches, it creates jobs for only 12% of the population and adds little value to the Mauritanian economy. The country’s EEZ hosts a rich variety of demersal fish (over 400 species have been counted, of which 100 are commercially valuable); pelagic fish (including deep sea fish, such as tuna and swordfish); mollusks (including cephalopods, such as octopus, cuttlefish, squid) and crustaceans (shrimp, lobster, crab).
According to the FAO, forest cover has decreased at an average annual rate of around 2.7% over the last 10 years. In the Senegal River Valley, many classified forests have gradually disappeared or seen their areas reduced due to drought and agricultural pressures. More and more of these areas are being given up to the development of hydro-agricultural schemes. A strategy for restoring protected forests has been developed however its action plan has not been implemented. The Banc d'Arguin National Park in the north is classified by Ramsar as a wetland of international importance, known for its essential role in the recovery of commercial species (e.g. sardines, mullet, shrimp), several water birds that breed in the park, several species of mammals (it is home to a population of Dorcas gazelles) and sea turtles. The Diawling National Park (also on the Ramsar list) in the southwest is a very important site for African/European migrant birds and is also the breeding place and nursery for nearly 100 marine, estuarine and freshwater species of commercial interest. The Cap Blanc Satellite Reserve was created in 1986 by decree to protect the population of monk seals, among the most endangered species in the world.
Formerly classified as the second largest producer of gum arabic (Acacia Senegal
) in the world, Mauritania now produces 500 tons annually, down markedly from 5,700 tons produced annually in the late 1960s/early 1970s. The production of dates has become a highly valued economic activity for the country (in oasis areas, agriculture is essentially based on the date palm with over 200 palm cultivars counted).
Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)
The main threats to terrestrial ecosystems have been identified as: overgrazing, overexploitation of forest products and non-timber forest products; habitat fragmentation; poaching; climate change; bush fires; urbanization; salinization; erosion; alien invasive species; mining and oil exploitation. The main threats to coastal ecosystems have been identified as: overfishing, urbanization, poaching and climate change. Regarding marine ecosystems, the main threats have been identified as: overfishing, use of wrong (destructive) fishing gear, pollution and climate change.