Thursday, June 12, 2008

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Sidi Toui National Park

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The semi-arid Sahelian grassland and scrub of southern Tunisia has been profoundly altered by human activities during the last century. Located on the northern fringe of the Sahara Desert, this ecosystem is susceptible to erosion and desertification brought on by droughts, overgrazing, and agriculture. In 1993, Sidi Toui National Park was established. Within the bounds of this protected area, natural vegetation began to return. The 1987 image shows the barren condition of the region before the park was created. In the 2006, image the outline of the park, which is protected from the effects of grazing cattle, contrasts markedly with the surrounding landscape. Protection substantially increased the vegetation density and species diversity, particularly of the grasses.

The Scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah) and five other species of gazelles and antelope native to this area had been brought to near extinction by lack of habitat and overhunting throughout the 20th century. Classified as critically endangered in 1996, a small population of Scimitar-horned oryx was introduced into Sidi Toui Park in 1999. If the population inside the park thrives, it may enable future reintroductions of Scimitar-horned oryx elsewhere, Sidi Toui also provides habitat for several native species of antelope, as well as a variety of bird species.
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