, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 553-567
Date: 04 Jul 2006

Woody vegetation change in Sahelian West Africa: evidence from local knowledge

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Abstract

Vegetation changes in Sahelian West Africa have been increasingly investigated since 1970 due to the catastrophic droughts in the early 1970s and 1980s and the following decades with below average precipitation. In most cases this was done by remote sensing and vegetation studies. In recent years, local knowledge of farmers and pastoralists about vegetation changes has been increasingly investigated. In this paper, information from different case studies in three West African countries (Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal) was used to analyse and evaluate vegetation changes in the Sahel. In total, data were analysed from 25 villages, where the local people were asked to mention plant species and qualify their present occurrence compared to the past. In total, 111 woody species were mentioned as having changed compared to the past, of which 79% were classified as having decreased or disappeared. For each single location 8–59 different woody species were mentioned. In most cases, these are valuable species of socio-economic importance. Only 11% of the species was classified as increasing or new (0–12 were mentioned per location), the later being mainly exotic species. Ten percent were categorised differently among villages. A comparison of local knowledge from different locations provide regional scale information on endangered species and thereby crucial information for making insightful priorities for assisted regeneration, reforestation and conservation strategies.