Tuesday, June 10, 2008

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Akagera National Park

United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda
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Akagera National Park in northeastern Rwanda is considered to be among the most complex savannah ecosystems in eastern Africa. Across its landscape are areas of tangled acacia trees interspersed with patches of open grassland, patches of gallery forest in the north, and wetlands and lakes along the course of the Akagera River.

Fire is common in the savannah portions of the park. Fire tends to maintain the savannah's vegetation structure, composition, nutrient cycling, and distribution. Satellite images from July 1980, June 1984, and July 2004 show the area surrounding Akagera National Park with large fire scars (dark purple patches). In 1980, fires left a scar 35 km wide and well over 100 km long. In 2004, fires burned nearly one-third of the park; they are believed to have been set by poachers. In contrast to these dry season images, the December 1999 image shows the region during the rainy season, when fires occur infrequently.

The size of Akagera National Park was reduced by approximately two-thirds in 1997 to allow for the resettlement of large numbers of refugees. Heavy grazing pressure, agricultural encroachment, charcoal production, the felling of trees for fuelwood and construction, and deliberately set fires have seriously fragmented the ecosystem. Wildlife populations are now concentrated in scattered enclaves.
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