Wednesday, June 11, 2008

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Rosso-Nouakchott Highway

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North of the border between Mauritania and Senegal, National Highway 2 connects Mauritania's coastal capital Nouakchott with the regional capital of Rosso. The highway has brought increased settlement to this arid area, leading to the loss of natural vegetation for building, grazing, and fuel, and beginning the process of desertification. Without vegetation to retain water and decrease wind erosion, the fertility and productivity of the soil declines, dry sandy soil begins to drift, and vegetation is less able to re-establish itself.

The signs of progressive degradation of the land along the Nouakchott–Rosso Highway can be seen in these images. In the 1972 image, bright reflection from the sandy soils surrounding the highway is mixed with some vegetation (shades of green). In the 1990 image, the path of the highway shows as a bright yellow corridor from northwest to southeast through El Haedi. The 2006 image shows the same pattern of vegetation loss along the highway.

The 2005 high-resolution image below is an enlarged view of the outlined area (red box) on the 2006 image. Red arrows on the 2005 image indicate areas of almost total vegetation loss. Continued population growth is increasing the demands made on this arid landscape.
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