|In the black and white image, the darker areas of the land enclosed by this great loop on the Senegal River show the extent of the riverine forest in 1966. The 2006 image shows that very little of that forest remains. Similar deforestation has occurred in the fertile floodplains along hundreds of kilometres of the Senegal River. Only a small fraction of these riverine woodlands remain (see photo panel below).|
Much of the forest was cleared by local people to make way for subsistence agriculture. The most common riverine tree species, Acacia nilotica, is also the preferred source of wood for fuel and construction, and for charcoal production. Production of charcoal for sale as far away as Dakar and Saint Louis has further increased the pressure on what remains of these woodlands. Acacia nilotica woodlands that covered 39 000 hectares along the Senegal River in 1966 had been reduced to 9 000 hectares by 1992—a reduction of 77 per cent.
These pressures were compounded by two developments in the late 1980s. In 1988, the Manantali Dam was built upstream in Mali. The dam controls roughly half of the Senegal River's discharge. While controlled releases of water from the dam can recreate natural flooding, below-normal flood levels may be contributing to loss of Acacia nilotica stands. The area's population has also grown dramatically over the past several decades, including the influx of some 120 000 Mauritanian refugees and Senegalese expatriates following an ethnic conflict in 1989.
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