Article written by 2013 DPDF Global Commodity Studies Research Director Judith Carney, Thomas W. Gillespie, and Richard Rosomoff:
This study examines the areal extent and status of mangrove forests in a West African region prioritized in contemporary conservation, climate change, and livelihood initiatives. The focus is the transnational region of the western coastal section of The Gambia and Senegal located between the Gambia and Casamance Rivers. Remote sensing applied to Landsat images of the interfluvial region in 1986 and 2010 indicates a 35% decline in overall mangrove coverage for the study area with sub-regions of pronounced loss. There was a 12% decline along the south bank of the lower Gambia River and a 43% decrease in coverage between the Gambian border and the Casamance River. Mangrove loss reached 92% in the northern section of Casamance south of the international border between Senegal and The Gambia. Fieldwork suggests that the mangrove decline over the study period is in part driven by the growing firewood demand of urban centers. The remote-sensing analysis, complemented by fieldwork in the region, attributes the negative trends to the Gambian demand for firewood, political instability in Casamance, and a porous international border that facilitates illegal cutting and smuggling.