Mangroves in West Africa, a very important ecosystem

The mangrove is both an extremely fragile and an important ecosystem for many human communities around the world. We will visit mangroves during our trips in West Africa. Senegal, Gambia and Ivory Coast are two formidable destinations to make interesting canoeing excursions across the labyrinthine channels in the mangrove, discovering a large number of birds and other animal species which live in these singular forests.

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Mangrove, these amazing trees and shrubs, live along lagoons, banks and tidal waters in tropical and subtropical latitudes, forming a real stopper zone between the land and the sea. In West Africa they are found in Casamance’s region in Senegal, some of them are 10 km wide or along the Gambia River where mangroves can reach up to 20 meters height.

Mangroves are the specie the most important among the 80 adapted to live in coastal wetland intertidal strip.

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Mangroves are extraordinary and unique trees. Aerial roots system over the water gives structural support and plays an important part in providing oxygen for respiration. They can grow in salty water and extract fresh water from the seawater. Mangrove has efficient methods of reproduction, seed germinate while on the tree, so they are ready. If the sprout falls dawn during the low tide it can quickly grow on the soft soil, if the sprout falls down during the high tide, the water will carry it to distant shores.

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Mangrove forests are one of the most productive ecosystems in biomass of our planet.

Mangroves have a high ecological role as nursery and adult habitat for a wide variety of fish, mollusks or crustaceans. Mangrove leaves, wood, roots, and detrital material provide essential food chain resources, and provide habitat for many wildlife including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and monkeys. In addition mangroves are an important bird stop on their migratory paths.

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Mangroves forests have an enormous value for the coastal communities that find in them one of their livelihood components. Mangroves offer to the local communities varied and abundant food satisfying many of their basic needs.

The importance of mangrove swamps is well established in regard to shoreline erosion, protecting the coast line. Studies have demonstrated that mangrove forests can reduce the destructive effects caused by a tsunami by 90 %.

Manglares Africa

According to estimations, more than 60 % of the fish caught between the Gulf of Guinea and Angola grow up in the mangroves strip of the Niger Delta. During many generations, communities that live there have treated the swamp in a sustainable way, thanks to their deep knowledge of the ecosystem, transmitted from generation to generation.

Nevertheless, changes occurred over the last decades have provoked the destruction or degradation of the mangroves in many countries. The population growth, the economic untenable development, high levels of pollution and the “boom” of the shrimps farms are damaging this important ecosystem.

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In our trips: Sierra Leone – Senegal (dec 2016) and Senegal – Sierra Leone (jan 2017) we will get across some mangrove forests in Casamance’s region and visit villages in these forests. In Gambia and will make a canoeing excursion trough Bao Bolongs’s spectacular swamps.

In our trips: Ghana – Sierra Leone (nov 2016) and Sierra Leone – Ghana (Liberia included, feb 2017) we will visit Sassandra mangroves in Ivory Coast

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