ResilienSEA in Mauritania
Mauritania forms a geographic and cultural bridge between the Maghreb and Sub-Saharan Africa. The mild climate and fertile soils of the South stand out from the Northern arid desert. Historically, Mauritanians have been nomads. At the time of decolonization in 1960, 90% of the population were still nomadic. Yet, this tradition has declined with severe droughts so that approximately only 5% of the population are still classified as being nomadic in 2006. To date, social structures and human settlement are undergoing profound changes which highlights a new connection with the land. Urbanization has dramatically accelerated as young Mauritanians seek economic opportunities. Along the Atlantic Coast, Nouakchott and Nouadhibou, concentrate most of these internal migrations. In Southern Mauritania, agriculture has developed along the Senegal River and supports large portions of the population and the economy. Fisheries have also grown with the industrialization of techniques and the opening to foreign vessels. Additionally, oil exploration and exploitation has become the main driver for foreign investments and economic growth.
As such, human activities and climate change are affecting Mauritania’s terrestrial and maritime biodiversity. The increasing pressures on the marine and coastal environment is notably threatening fisheries which are crucial for economic and food security. As such, seagrasses play a significant role in maintaining fisheries and marine biodiversity.
Important efforts have been made in the last decades to improve environmental protection. These initiatives have been encouraged by an increasing engagement of the country in international, multilateral and regional agreements. For instance, two Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) were created to protect important marine and coastal ecosystems (National Park of Banc d’Arguin and Cap Blanc). The National Park of Banc d’Arguin (PNBA) is one of the world’s most important wetland and is a critical site for seagrass.