All Across Africa
The Sahelian Acacia Savanna ecoregion stretches clear across the widest part of the African continent, from Senegal on the Atlantic Coast to Sudan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea on the Red Sea.
This ecoregion spans from west to east Africa. Although a few isolated mountains rise from this otherwise flat land, they are not part of this ecoregion; the majority of this ecoregion lies between 650 and 1300 feet (200 and 400 m). Here in the Sahelian Savanna, the temperatures are hot, the water scarce, and the seasons distinct. Most rain falls from May to September. The rains create temporary wetlands vital to resident and migrating animals, but they drain quickly through the porous soil. During the dry season, woody vegetation loses its leaves--an adaptation that enables the plants to conserve water and thus survive drought. Dust and sand can swirl through the savanna in the dry season, on winds that blow south from the Sahara. The hardy plants that grow here include acacia, boscia, and sporobolus.
The Sahelian Acacia Savanna provides habitat for an array of mammals, from giraffes to a number of endemic gerbil species. In addition to the giraffe, other large grazing and browsing mammals formerly lived here in large numbers, including dama and red-faced gazelles and bubal hartebeests. Their predators--wild dogs, cheetahs, and lions--also lived here. Most of these animals now exist only in pockets of preserved land. Birds, however, are abundant during the wet season, which coincides with the their migration along a major flyway. Some of the large wetlands they depend upon are considered separate ecoregions. Some of the smaller wetlands within the Sahelian Acacia Savanna are among the five percent of this vast ecoregion that is protected. Twenty-three protected areas exist, ranging in size from 3 to 32,000 square miles (8-80,000 sq. km).
Cause for Concern
Large mammals of this ecoregion have declined considerably due to constant pressure from commercial hunting and poaching. Agriculture adds to the pressure, as farming and grazing can damage native vegetation, eventually turning the area into desert.
For more information on this ecoregion, go to the World Wildlife Fund Scientific Report.All text by World Wildlife Fund © 2001