Country Profiles

Mauritania - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

Mauritania is a West African country located in the Sahel-Saharan region, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara. In the last 25 years, the country has experienced three long periods of drought. The agricultural sector (agriculture and livestock) contributes approximately 18% to the country’s GDP, with livestock (cattle, camels, sheeps, goats) representing 80% of this figure. Extensive agriculture is practiced however in recent years there has been a shift to other forms of agriculture, such as suburban agriculture, and to the creation of artificial insemination centres. Only 11.5% of the area under agricultural production is irrigated; irrigated crops include cereals, such as rice, corn, sorghum, wheat and barley and various vegetable crops, that are exposed to stresses from drought and desertification. Most notably, agricultural production covers only 40% of the food needs of the Mauritanian people.

The fish industry is also an important economic sector, representing 10% of the country’s GDP and between 35-50% of its exports. It is estimated that artisanal fishing provides employment for 31% of the population. Although industrial fishing is responsible for 90% of catches, it creates jobs for only 12% of the population and adds little value to the Mauritanian economy. The country’s EEZ hosts a rich variety of demersal fish (over 400 species have been counted, of which 100 are commercially valuable); pelagic fish (including deep sea fish, such as tuna and swordfish); mollusks (including cephalopods, such as octopus, cuttlefish, squid) and crustaceans (shrimp, lobster, crab).

According to the FAO, forest cover has decreased at an average annual rate of around 2.7% over the last 10 years. In the Senegal River Valley, many classified forests have gradually disappeared or seen their areas reduced due to drought and agricultural pressures. More and more of these areas are being given up to the development of hydro-agricultural schemes. A strategy for restoring protected forests has been developed however its action plan has not been implemented. The Banc d'Arguin National Park in the north is classified by Ramsar as a wetland of international importance, known for its essential role in the recovery of commercial species (e.g. sardines, mullet, shrimp), several water birds that breed in the park, several species of mammals (it is home to a population of Dorcas gazelles) and sea turtles. The Diawling National Park (also on the Ramsar list) in the southwest is a very important site for African/European migrant birds and is also the breeding place and nursery for nearly 100 marine, estuarine and freshwater species of commercial interest. The Cap Blanc Satellite Reserve was created in 1986 by decree to protect the population of monk seals, among the most endangered species in the world.

Formerly classified as the second largest producer of gum arabic (Acacia Senegal) in the world, Mauritania now produces 500 tons annually, down markedly from 5,700 tons produced annually in the late 1960s/early 1970s. The production of dates has become a highly valued economic activity for the country (in oasis areas, agriculture is essentially based on the date palm with over 200 palm cultivars counted).

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The main threats to terrestrial ecosystems have been identified as: overgrazing, overexploitation of forest products and non-timber forest products; habitat fragmentation; poaching; climate change; bush fires; urbanization; salinization; erosion; alien invasive species; mining and oil exploitation. The main threats to coastal ecosystems have been identified as: overfishing, urbanization, poaching and climate change. Regarding marine ecosystems, the main threats have been identified as: overfishing, use of wrong (destructive) fishing gear, pollution and climate change.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

Mauritania completed its first NBSAP in 1999. The primary goal of Mauritania’s new National Biodiversity Strategy (2011-2020) is to maintain the functions of ecosystems over the long term, including their capacity to adapt and evolve in relation to environmental changes, particularly climate change and desertification processes. The document is based on six strategic orientations: (i) the creation of the desire to act on behalf of biodiversity; (ii) the preservation of life and its ability to evolve; (iii) investment in biodiversity conservation; (iv) assuring the sustainable and equitable use of biodiversity; (v) assuring policy coherence and the effectiveness of actions; and (vi) the development, sharing and utilization of knowledge. In addition, 14 national targets have been set (see:, together with actions, indicators and costs for implementing actions. Progress achieved to date towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and relevant Millennium Development Goals is also outlined in the Strategy.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

Examples of actions taken that contribute to the achievement of the global targets are highlighted below, although it is indicated in the fifth national report submitted in June 2014 that the effectiveness (outcomes) of these actions to date has been weak.

The preservation and valuation of natural resources and the promotion of renewable energy sources are current national priorities. A workshop was held for stakeholders and decision-makers to raise awareness on the costs of inaction for biodiversity conservation. In addition, a study has been carried out on the values of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The Mauritanian Government is also currently promoting studies on: the country’s carbon stocks; Payment for Environmental (or Ecosystem) Services (PES); Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

In partnership with the Africa Rice Centre (AfricaRice) and the National Centre on Agronomic Research and Agricultural Development (CNRADA), work is being carried out on collecting and characterizing varieties of rice tolerant to cold and salinity, testing the behaviours of 18 hybrid rice varieties, among other studies. Projects on fish farming and aquaculture have also been implemented.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

Other current national priorities include matters such as: sectoral reform focused on human, material and financial resources; inter-sectoral matters; restructuring/institution-building (a structure for raising awareness of biodiversity has been established).

The National Action Plan for the Environment (PANE) and the National Strategy for Sustainable Development (SNDD) together define environmental policy for the country. The PANE serves as a coherent environmental framework and, notably, its second phase (PANE II) for 2012-2016 has mainstreamed biodiversity in all its considerations, promotes the concept of Good Environmental Governance and a decentralized and synergistic approach to environmental management, including with the participation of local actors. Biodiversity is also integrated in the Strategic Framework for Poverty Reduction (CSLP) and the National Action Plan to Combat Desertification (PAN/LCD), among several other planning documents.

The National Strategy on Protected Areas has been implemented; marine protected areas have been established. National strategies on ecosystem management have also been implemented.

Mauritania is a signatory to the Nagoya Protocol on ABS.

Capacity-building activities have been undertaken with regard to ex situ conservation (seed banks) and improving food security.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

A mechanism for monitoring and reviewing implementation of the National Biodiversity Strategy (2011-2020) does not exist. These issues are however addressed to a certain extent under subprogramme 1 of the National Action Plan for the Environment (PANE II) (2012-2016).