African Studies Environment
by
A. T. Grove
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0086

Introduction

The environment of Africa, as it is considered here, includes the atmosphere and its behavior over the long and short term; the rocks underlying the continent; its relief and minerals; rivers, lakes, and wetlands; forests and savanna; grasslands and deserts; soils and wildlife, and the threats to these and their conservation. Generally, the natural environment is regarded as being different from the built, or man-made, environment, but the distinction is somewhat artificial. The natural environment influences human behavior, and, at the same time, human activities modify the natural environment; the two are interwoven and change over time. In Africa the long-term history of the natural environment and especially the variations in climate over the millennia have had a bearing on the evolution of humanity. Climate variability in the short term continues to influence human experience in Africa, and climate change may do so in the future. In its early history, Africa was regarded as a source of gold and ivory but as a continent with a difficult environment on account of disease and accessibility. Even until the middle of the 20th century, Africa’s population was much sparser than it is in the early 21st century, with numbers increasing faster than on any other continent and approximately half the people living in towns and cities. Oil and natural gas, iron ore, copper, coal, and other minerals are being extracted on a large scale, rivers have been dammed for generating electricity, cropland is encroaching on grazing land and forests, and traditional agriculture and pastoralism are experiencing difficulties. Nearly everywhere the environment is under increasing pressure, with conditions changing from one decade to another. The concerns of the literature on the environment vary from one part of the continent to another. Whereas the West and North are mainly below 1,000 feet above sea level, much of the South and East of the continent are elevated above 3,000 feet. Except for the Atlas Mountains, in the far northwest, plus a narrow strip along the Mediterranean coast, both of which receive rain in winter, and the irrigated Nile valley, desert occupies the continent north of latitude 15 degrees north and also extends south, through Somalia and eastern Ethiopia, into northeast Kenya. Much of western and central Africa south of latitude 15 degrees south is also dry. The extreme South and the Southeast are better watered. Equatorial western Africa, between 5 degrees north and 5 degrees south of the equator, is a high-rainfall region supporting rainforest. Extensive regions between the rainforest and the dry lands are occupied by savanna woodland, depending on summer rainfall.

General Overviews

Many books, such as Wellington 1955, are concerned with only a part of the continent. Wellington considered that the ultimate limits to economic development and population increase in southern Africa may be imposed by one factor: water supply. Lewis and Berry 1988, a textbook for college students, provides a sound introduction. Adams, et al. 1996 is a larger, multiauthored volume consisting of twenty-one contributions, mainly by geographers recognized as experts in their various fields.

  • Adams, W. M., A. S. Goudie, and A. R. Orme, eds. The Physical Geography of Africa. Oxford Regional Environments. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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    A comprehensive view of the African environment, with long reference lists after each chapter.

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    • Lewis, L. A., and L. Berry. African Environments and Resources. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1988.

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      Somewhat dated, but still relevant.

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      • Wellington, John H. Southern Africa: A Geographical Study. Vol. 1, Physical Geography. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1955.

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        Covers the subcontinent seen as “a home of man.”

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        Bibliographies

        Much early information about the environment of Africa is contained in colonial reports on geology, climate, soils, vegetation, and wildlife. Such reports are often more readily available in London, Paris, Lisbon, Brussels, Rome, and Berlin than in the former colonies in Africa. Centers of African studies in Europe and North America publish bibliographies and hold postcolonial material, for example, the Royal African Society’s African Affairs and the Africa Bibliography, originally published by the International African Institute. Africa Environment Outlook: Past, Present and Future Perspectives was compiled and published online by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment and the United Nations Environment Programme (AMCEN/UNEP), with African Ministers of Environment (AEO) collaborating centers. Writings on the Nile are especially numerous, and Terje Tvedt’s bibliographies (Tvedt 2000, Tvedt 2004) are remarkably comprehensive, covering up to the end of the 20th century. The environmental history of Africa has been attracting much attention, and the bibliographies Munson 2007 and Africa South of the Sahara are useful additions to bibliographical sources.

        Environmental History

        Environmental history is concerned with changes in the biosphere over time and the story of society’s increasing understanding of the nature and causes of those changes and of their significance for humanity’s continued existence on Earth. Environmental history extends back in time through recorded history. Hailey 1945 (originally published in 1938) was proposed by General Jan Smuts in the course of a Rhodes Memorial Lecture he delivered at Oxford University in 1929. The project was funded by the Carnegie Corporation. Lord Hailey, the then governor of the United Provinces in India, agreed to direct the survey. E. B. Worthington was a hydrobiologist who had been involved in a Cambridge University study of the fisheries of the Great Lakes c. 1930. Worthington 1938 was written in conjunction with Hailey’s book and provided an ecological approach to the survey. It was later updated by Worthington 1958. Ronald Keay underlines the importance of the books by Hailey and Worthington in providing a historical perspective for the development of science in Africa, describing them as “required reading for anyone interested in this subject” (Keay 1976, pp. 87–88). Grove 1995 draws attention to the importance of 18th- and 19th-century writings on environment and conservation by British, French, and Dutch naturalists and surgeons working in colonial territories. Beinart and McGregor 2003 brings together thirteen contributions dealing with the environmental ideas and practices of Africans. Tilley 2011 examines the role of scientific expertise in the administration and development of British tropical Africa between 1890 and 1960.

        • Beinart, William, and JoAnn McGregor, eds. Social History and African Environments. Papers presented at “African Environments: Past and Present,” St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford, July 1999. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2003.

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          The introductory chapter provides a valuable summary of numerous contributions relating to African environmental history.

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          • Grove, Richard H. Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens, and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600–1860. Studies in Environment and History. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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            Includes material relating to South Africa, Saint Helena, and Mauritius.

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            • Hailey, William Malcolm, Baron. An African Survey: A Study of Problems Arising in Africa South of the Sahara. 2d ed. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1945.

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              Originally published in 1938. Was claimed to be a clear and objective study of significant facts.

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              • Keay, Ronald. “Scientific Cooperation in Africa.” African Affairs 75 (1976): 86–97.

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                Considers the contribution of Hailey and Worthington. Keay, having been concerned in his early career with the study of West African forests, later became executive secretary of the Royal Society. Available online by subscription.

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                • Tilley, Helen. Africa as a Living Laboratory: Empire, Development, and the Problem of Scientific Knowledge, 1870–1950. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.

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                  Traces the history of the attitudes of European governments and scientists toward the African environment and the ways in which it has been used by Africans.

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                  • Worthington, E. B. Science in Africa: A Review of Scientific Research Relating to Tropical and Southern Africa. London and New York: Oxford University Press: 1938.

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                    Concludes with bibliographies and a list of recognized authorities.

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                    • Worthington, E. B. Science in the Development of Africa: A Review of the Contribution of Physical and Biological Knowledge South of the Sahara. London: Commission for Technical Co-operation in Africa South of the Sahara, 1958.

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                      An update of Worthington 1938. Considers the physical background in almost one hundred pages and biological subjects in approximately twice as many.

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                      Quaternary Environmental Change

                      Africa is widely believed to have been the scene of human evolution. Much attention has consequently been devoted since the mid-20th century to tracing the history of environmental conditions there during the Quaternary, the geological period comprising the Pleistocene, extending back over two-and-a-half million years of glacials and interglacials, and the post-glacial Holocene, a span of 11,500 years ago. Howell and Bourlière 2008 was a pioneering volume resulting from a small Wenner-Gren conference held at Burg Wartenstein, Austria, in 1961, approximately the time when radiocarbon dating was beginning to provide a chronological framework for the late Quaternary. Karl Butzer, who contributed to the conference proceedings and was later involved in one of the rescue operations during the construction of the Aswan High Dam, was a lead author and an editor, with Carl L. Hansen, of Desert and River in Nubia: Geomorphology and Prehistoric Environments at the Aswan Reservoir (Butzer and Hansen 1968). Grove, also at the Burg Wartenstein conference, later with Alayne Street demonstrated from dates of former lake shorelines that arid conditions characterized intertropical Africa during the last glacial maximum and that the aridity was followed by an early Holocene lacustral phase (Street and Grove 1976). Another of those attending Burg Wartenstein was Reginald Moreau, the ornithologist, who subsequently coined the term Mega-Chad for the early Holocene Saharan lake. Subsequently, evidence of the longer-term climate record came from ocean cores, as obtained by deMenocal 1995. Gasse and others made good use of the assemblages of diatoms in lake floor sediments to trace the African climatic record in greater detail (Gasse 2000). Soulié-Märsche, et al. 2010 uses dates for samples of calcified fruits of Characeae collected in the early 1960s from within the Trou au Natron caldera in Tibesti. The authors confirm that the caldera, 6 kilometers in diameter and approaching 1,000 meters in depth, contained a lake almost 300 meters deep approximately 14,000 years ago. Bonnefille 2010, written by a very experienced researcher, outlines hominid evolution in Africa in relation to vegetation and climate changes there over the last 10 million years. Lézine, et al. 2011 throws additional light on the influence of Atlantic monsoon changes on the environment of the Sahara and Sahel in the course of the Holocene.

                      • Bonnefille, Raymonde. “Cenozoic Vegetation, Climate Changes and Hominid Evolution in Tropical Africa.” In Special Issue: Quaternary and Global Change: Review and Issues: Special Issue in Memory of Hugues Faure. Edited by Jean-Luc Probst, Luc Ortlieb, and Liliane Faure-Denard. Global and Planetary Change 72.4 (2010): 390–411.

                        DOI: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2010.01.015Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                        Based on pollen and fossil wood, leaves, and fruits in Ethiopia, East Africa, the Gulf of Aden, and the Niger delta. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                        • Butzer, Karl W., and Carl L. Hansen. Desert and River in Nubia: Geomorphology and Prehistoric Environments at the Aswan Reservoir. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1968.

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                          The geomorphic landscape of southern Egypt and its evolution during the Ice Age. Results of one of the rescue operations during the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

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                          • deMenocal, Peter B. “Plio-Pleistocene African Climate.” Science 270.5233 (1995): 53–59.

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                            Sees marine records as pointing to shifts to more arid conditions in Africa approximately 2.8, 1.7, and 1.0 million years ago, suggesting that some Pleistocene speciation events may have been climatically mediated. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                            • Gasse, Françoise. “Hydrological Changes in the African Tropics since the Last Glacial Maximum.” Quaternary Science Reviews 19.1–5 (2000): 189–211.

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                              Gasse shows that the late Pleistocene and Holocene environments of both hemispheres are interrelated, with major dry spells in Africa approximately 8.4–8.0 and 4.2–4.0 thousands of years before present. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                              • Howell, F. Clark, and François Bourlière, eds. African Ecology and Human Evolution. Papers presented at a symposium held in Burg Wartenstein, Austria, 10–22 July 1961. New Brunswick, NJ: Aldine, Transaction, 2008.

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                                Includes papers by Théodore Monod and L. S. B. Leakey.

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                                • Lézine, Anne-Marie, Christelle Hély, Christophe Grenier, Pascale Braconnot, and Gerhard Krinner. “Sahara and Sahel Vulnerability to Climate Changes, Lessons from Holocene Hydrological Data.” Quaternary Science Reviews 30.21–22 (2011): 3001–3012.

                                  DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2011.07.006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                  Makes use of more than 1,500 palaeohydrological records procured since the mid-20th century. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                  • Soulié-Märsche, I., S. Bieda, R. Lafond, et al. “Charophytes as Bio-Indicators for Lake Level High Stand at ‘Trou au Natron,’ Tibesti, Chad, during the Late Pleistocene.” In Special Issue: Quaternary and Global Change: Review and Issues: Special Issue in Memory of Hugues Faure. Edited by Jean-Luc Probst, Luc Ortlieb, and Liliane Faure-Denard. Global and Planetary Change 72.4 (2010): 334–340.

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                                    Evidence of a wet central Sahara 14,000 years ago. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                    • Street, F. Alayne, and A. T. Grove. “Environmental and Climatic Implications of Late Quaternary Lake-Level Fluctuations in Africa.” Nature 261.5559 (1976): 385–390.

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                                      Depends heavily on radiocarbon dates of lake strandlines and sediments obtained by numerous investigators. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                      Environment History and Prehistory

                                      As the references to Quaternary Environmental Change indicate, rainfall over what is, in the early 21st century, the Sahara desert diminished markedly approximately five thousand years ago. Mega-Chad shrank in size, and the region was eventually deserted by people and their livestock as savanna woodland and wildlife retreated south. Agriculturalists began to cultivate the floodplains of a Nile less given to dangerous flooding and later occupied the clay plains south of Lake Chad, where Connah 1981 traces the early history of settlement. Verschuren, et al. 2000 presents a decade-scale reconstruction of Lake Naivasha inferred from sediment stratigraphy and diatom and midge assemblages, pointing to low stands at AD 1000–1270, 1380–1420, 1560–1620, and 1760–1840. Endfield and Nash 2002 examines the role missionaries may have played in relation to the later debates on long-term desiccation in Africa. Herb and Derchain 2009 presents a reconstruction of the environment of the lower Nile valley in ancient Egypt. Russell and Johnson 2007 links Little Ice Age droughts in equatorial Africa to El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events. Nash and Endfield 2008 points to the same culprit as having been responsible for 19th-century droughts in the Kalahari. Shanahan, et al. 2009 finds evidence within a core obtained from the floor of Lake Bosumtwi (which occupies a meteorite crater in southern Ghana) that in the last three thousand years there were several drought periods in West Africa longer and more severe than those that have occurred in the historical record. Nguetsop, et al. 2010 shows that equatorial Africa was also affected by climatic variations within the last few millennia but offers a different explanation.

                                      • Connah, Graham. Three Thousand Years in Africa: Man and His Environment in the Lake Chad Region in Nigeria. New Studies in Archaeology. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

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                                        “Unseen by the casual visitor, however, there are advantages to this area that can be exploited by man if he is able to adapt himself so as to overcome the difficulties” (p. 246). A difficult environment, but, as Connah shows, with advantages that have been exploited by people’s adapting their ways of life to the unreliable rainfall and the heavy clay soils.

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                                        • Endfield, Georgina H., and David J. Nash. “Drought, Desiccation and Discourse: Missionary Correspondence and Nineteenth-Century Climate Change in Central Southern Africa.” Geographical Journal 168.1 (2002): 33–47.

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                                          Historical droughts in southern Africa. Available online by subscription.

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                                          • Herb, Michael, and Philippe Derchain. “The ‘Landscapes’ of Ancient Egypt: Intellectual Reactions to the Environment of the Lower Nile Valley.” In African Landscapes: Interdisciplinary Approaches. Edited by Michael Bollig and Olaf Bubenzer, 201–224. Studies in Human Ecology and Adaptation 4. New York: Springer, 2009.

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                                            As society and culture evolved in ancient Egypt, so, too, did its habitat, in both a physical and a conceptual sense.

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                                            • Nash, David J., and Georgina H. Endfield. “‘Splendid Rains Have Fallen’: Links between El Niño and Rainfall Variability in the Kalahari, 1840–1900.” Climatic Change 86.3–4 (2008): 257–290.

                                              DOI: 10.1007/s10584-007-9274-zSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                              Identifies thirteen Kalahari droughts following seventeen single-year, protracted ENSO warm episodes. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                              • Nguetsop, Victor François, Simone Servant-Valdary, Michel Servant, and Maurice Roux. “Long and Short-Time Scale Climatic Variability in the Last 5500 Years in Africa According to Modern and Fossil Diatoms from Lake Ossa (Western Cameroon).” In Special Issue: Quaternary and Global Change: Review and Issues: Special Issue in Memory of Hugues Faure. Edited by Jean-Luc Probst, Luc Ortlieb, and Liliane Faure-Denard. Global and Planetary Change 72.4 (2010): 356–367.

                                                DOI: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2010.01.011Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                Suggests that before 2,750 calibrated years before present the influence of the Southern Hemisphere prevailed in western Cameroon and that afterward northern climatic forcing intensified, particularly between 2,750 and 2,050 calibrated years before present and also since the mid-17th century. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                • Russell, J. M., and T. C. Johnson. “Little Ice Age Drought in Equatorial Africa: Intertropical Convergence Zone Migrations and El Niño–Southern Oscillation Variability.” Geology 35.1 (2007): 21–24.

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                                                  Whereas the intertropical convergence zone shifted south during the Little Ice Age, with high northern latitude cooling, the Congo air boundary shifted west, with changes in the relative strength of the Atlantic and Indian monsoons, under the influence of more intense El Niño–driven events in East Africa. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                  • Shanahan, T. M., J. T. Overpeck, K. J. Anchukaitis, et al. “Atlantic Forcing of Persistent Drought in West Africa.” Science 324.5925 (2009): 377–380.

                                                    DOI: 10.1126/science.1166352Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                    Monsoon failure is thought to be associated with variations in sea surface temperature. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                    • Verschuren, Dirk, Kathleen R. Laird, and Brian F. Cumming. “Rainfall and Drought in Equatorial East Africa during the Past 1100 Years.” Nature 403.6768 (2000): 410–414.

                                                      DOI: 10.1038/35000179Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                      Climate fluctuations indicated by lake level and salinity fluctuations. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                      Physical Geography

                                                      Many features of the physical geography of southern Africa, notably the great upland plains, can be ascribed to its history as a centrally lying part of Gondwanaland. East Africa has been influenced by the breakaway of India and Madagascar and the formation of the system of the Rift Valleys, the development of which continues in the early 21st century, notably in eastern Ethiopia. The northern part of the continent has been widely submerged and covered with sedimentary rocks. Fold mountains are confined to the extreme south and the Atlas Mountains in the Northwest. The continent’s geological history has influenced the broad distribution of mineral resources (see Geology). Patterns of Soils are related to the underlying rocks and their weathering products, which are in turn associated with past climatic conditions as well as the relief and vegetation cover.

                                                      Geology

                                                      Africa has long been a source of gold and, in modern times, a major supplier to the rest of the world of diamonds, iron ore, coal, copper, nickel, petroleum, and other minerals. They have brought employment to many Africans, but their exploitation has provided wealth for only a few and is causing increasing damage to the environment, especially water supplies. Articles on African geology are distributed through a wide range of journals but are especially concentrated in the Journal of African Earth Sciences, a periodical containing papers on the geology of Africa and the Middle East and especially contributions relating to the search for natural resources. Falconer 1911 was written in the days when geologists were exploring the African interior on foot and horseback. This text is based on the results of five expeditions J. D. Falconer made to northern Nigeria between 1904 and 1909, spending seven months of each year on fieldwork, in which he made a series of traverses to ascertain the geological structure and mineral resources of the territory. King 1963 was written before the general acceptance of plate tectonics and when ideas about the Pleistocene history of the continent were rudimentary. The work nevertheless presents a perceptive overview of the landscapes of southern Africa. Furon 1963 includes chapters devoted to each of the main geological periods as well as individual countries and groups of countries plus references. Schlüter 2008 summarizes the geology of Africa by presenting it in an atlas, neatly bringing together the stratigraphy, tectonics, economic geology, geohazards, geosites, and geoscientific education in each country and territory of the continent.

                                                      Rift Valleys

                                                      The East African Rift valleys are important features of the continent’s environment because of the effects they have on the relief and hydrology of eastern Africa and because of the light that geological and geophysical studies of the system have thrown on the dynamics of the earth’s crust. Gregory 1968 provides an entertaining and perceptive introduction to the subject. Nyamweru 1996 notes the immensity of the literature devoted to the system and its increasing sophistication. Dawson 2008 brings up-to-date knowledge of the northern Tanzanian section of the Gregory Rift.

                                                      • Dawson, J. B. The Gregory Rift Valley and Neogene-Recent Volcanoes of Northern Tanzania. Geological Society Memoir 33. London: Geological Society, 2008.

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                                                        Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro, Oldoinyo Lengai, and Olduvai are all within this section of the Rift valley.

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                                                        • Gregory, J. W. The Great Rift Valley: Being the Narrative of a Journey to Mount Kenya and Lake Baringo, with Some Account of the Geology, Natural History, Anthropology and Future Prospects of British East Africa. London: Cass, 1968.

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                                                          Originally published in 1896 (London: Murray). This is one of the first accounts of the East African Rift valley by a geologist.

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                                                          • Nyamweru, C. K. “The African Rift System.” In The Physical Geography of Africa. Edited by W. M. Adams, A. S. Goudie, and A. R. Orme, 18–33. Oxford Regional Environments. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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                                                            Includes a historical account of the most important developments in knowledge of rift processes and structures. Comprehensible to the nonspecialist.

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                                                            Soils

                                                            Trapnell and Clothier 1996 is a reprint of an account of field studies C. G. Trapnell and J. Clothier made in the 1930s in what was northern Rhodesia (Zambia, in the early 21st century). Their studies, first published in the 1950s, provided a deeper understanding of the soils and vegetation and the land use practices of native cultivators of the savanna regions of South-Central Africa. The 1950s and 1960s saw a considerable number of soil studies in Africa. In Ghana, C. F. Charter helped establish a soil survey. His soil classification is described in Effland, et al. 2006. Both Brian Wills (Wills 1962) and Hugh Brammer were members of the survey team who had trained as geographers at Cambridge University (Brammer later served with the United Nations in Bangladesh for many years). Roland Moss, at the University of Ibadan, in Nigeria, organized a symposium intended for both nonspecialists and expert pedologists, which resulted in The Soil Resources of Tropical Africa (Moss 1968). Shortly afterward, Michael Thomas and G. W. Whittington edited Environment and Land Use in Africa (Thomas and Whittington 1969). Olusegun Areola, a professor in the geography department at the University of Ibadan, who obtained his doctorate at Cambridge University for a study of soils in a part of North Wales, wrote on African soils in The Physical Geography of Africa (Areola 1996). That same year, the US Department of Agriculture’s assessment of African land productivity and sustainability appeared (Eswaran, et al. 1997). Since then, the literature on African soils has been rather sparse. However, Martin Fey has produced Soils of South Africa (Fey 2010), which is based on the South African Soil and Irrigation Research Institute’s (now the Institute for Soil, Climate and Water) mapping of soil-landscape-climate associates on a scale of 1:250,000. The Joint Research Centre of the European Commission offers a Soil Atlas of Africa.

                                                            Climate

                                                            Lying between 35 degrees north and 35 degrees south of the equator, Africa is the most tropical of the continents. Its climate is dominated by the movement north and south of the intertropical convergence zone and the associated rainfall. Other influences are the surface temperatures of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and especially the warm and cold ocean currents offshore. On the poleward sides of the range of movement of the intertropical convergence, rainfall is generally sparse, and it is possible that if climate warming takes place in the way that is widely expected, then water shortages may become even more severe and widespread than is the case in the early 21st century.

                                                            Current Climate

                                                            Of all the environmental influences in Africa, climate is the dominant one. The Sahelian drought of the 1970s and 1980s drew attention to the uncertainty of the rainfall, as did the floods in southern Africa in 2000 and in West, Central, and East Africa in July and October 2007. Knox 1911 brought together for the first time a great deal of information about Africa’s climate. Goudie 1996 presents a clear account of the Pleistocene and early-21st-century climate. The Demarée, et al. 1996 volume was the outcome of a conference in Brussels in memory of Franz Bultot, who was in charge of the Bureau de climatologie at the Institut national pour l’étude agronomique du Congo from 1947 to 1962 and head of the hydrology and climatology sections of Institut royal méteorologique de Belgique from 1962 to 1985. Tyson and Preston-Whyte 2000 is the standard book on South Africa’s weather and climate. Leroux 2001 is an updated edition of an earlier volume, retaining many diagrams from the previous work. Much attention is being paid to the possible effects on African climate of El Niño and La Niña, or El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The paper Giannini, et al. 2008 and a 2009 special Africa issue of the International Journal of Climatology (Reason 2009) present topics typical of early-21st-century research in African climatology.

                                                            • Demarée, G., J. Alexandre, and M. De Dapper, eds. International Conference on Tropical Climatology, Meteorology, and Hydrology in Memoriam Franz Bultot (1924–1995): Brussels, 22–24 May 1996. Brussels: Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium, 1996.

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                                                              A volume of fifty-two papers, mainly on Africa.

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                                                              • Giannini, Alessandra, Michela Biasutti, Isaac M. Held, and Adam H. Sobel. “A Global Perspective on African Climate.” Climatic Change 90 (2008): 359–383.

                                                                DOI: 10.1007/s10584-008-9396-ySave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                Two patterns stand out in this analysis of 20th-century rainfall variability: a drying of the monsoon regions related to warming of the tropical oceans and variability related to ENSO.

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                                                                • Goudie, A. S. “Climate: Past and Present.” In The Physical Geography of Africa. Edited by W. M. Adams, A. S. Goudie, and A. R. Orme, 34–59. Oxford Regional Environments. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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                                                                  A clear account of the continent’s Pleistocene and early-21st-century climate.

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                                                                  • Knox, Alexander. The Climate of the Continent of Africa. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1911.

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                                                                    Includes some of the earliest rainfall maps of Africa.

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                                                                    • Leroux, Marcel. The Meteorology and Climate of Tropical Africa. Springer-Praxis Books in Environmental Sciences. London and New York: Springer, 2001.

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                                                                      Diagrams are based on mean values from 1931 to 1970 (the year Leroux regards as a “climatic watershed”), when meteorological observations in Africa were most efficient. The text takes account of changing perceptions in tropical meteorology since that time, paying special attention to the Sahelian drought.

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                                                                      • Reason, C. J. C., ed. Special Issue: African Climate and Applications. International Journal of Climatology 29.7 (2009).

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                                                                        A special Africa issue of the journal with contributions on daily precipitation in the Volta basin, the 2006 flood in Tanzania, the influence of Lake Victoria on local climate, the low-level Somali jet, host-parasite distribution patterns and simulated climate, and sea surface temperature forcing in southern Africa. Articles available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                        • Tyson, P. D., and R. A. Preston-Whyte. The Weather and Climate of Southern Africa. 2d ed. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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                                                                          Each chapter ends with selected recommendations for further reading, some introductory and some advanced.

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                                                                          Climate Change

                                                                          Precipitation, a critical feature of the African environment, is known to have varied markedly in the past on all time scales. In the early 21st century, much attention is directed toward the possible consequences of climate warming on account of human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels. The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change created a stir because of accusations that its predictions were unsoundly based. The outlook, according to climate models reviewed in Christensen, et al. 2007, a contribution to the report, is uncertain, but warming is almost inevitable. As Dinar, et al. 2008 indicates, the consequences for Africa would appear to be generally harmful, especially in the drylands. In view of the attention attracted by the droughts and floods since the 1970s and the uncertainties associated with climate change, Chhibber and Laajaj 2008 advocates a greater emphasis in development planning as part of the response to extreme climate events. The findings of Hassan 2010 indicate this is necessary, particularly in arid and semiarid regions.

                                                                          • Chhibber, Ajay, and Rachid Laajaj. “Disasters, Climatic Change and Economic Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: Lessons and Directions.” Journal of African Economies 17 (2008): ii7–ii49.

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                                                                            Argues that African governments need to develop a more robust response to disasters as part of their development planning. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                            • Christensen, Jens Hesselbjerg, Bruce Hewitson, Aristita Busuioc, et al. “Regional Climate Projections: 11.2, Africa.” In Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis; Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Edited by Susan Solomon, Dahe Qin, and Martin Manning, 866–871. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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                                                                              Predicts warming in Africa is likely to be greater than the global average, with rainfall likely to decrease near the Mediterranean and in southernmost Africa but to increase in East Africa. The outlook for West Africa and the Sahel is regarded as uncertain.

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                                                                              • Dinar, Ariel, Rashid Hassan, Robert Mendelsohn, et al. Climate Change and Agriculture in Africa: Impact Assessment and Adaptation Strategies. London and Sterling, VA: Earthscan. 2008.

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                                                                                Assesses the potential economic effects of future climate change.

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                                                                                • Hassan, Rashid M. “Implications of Climate Change for Agricultural Sector Performance in Africa: Policy Challenges and Research Agenda.” Journal of African Economies 19 (2010): ii77–ii105.

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                                                                                  Ten thousand farm surveys in eleven countries indicate that specialized crop and livestock farming in arid and semiarid regions are at greatest risk. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                  Geographical Regions

                                                                                  Certain regions of Africa have distinctive characteristics, based mainly on the availability of water for plants, animals, and people. The climates and the climatic histories of the various African desert regions of the early 21st century differ from each other quite markedly (see the Sahara and the Libyan Desert). The Savanna lands also vary considerably in the assemblages of species providing the tree cover, the relative importance of domestic and wild animals, and the human use of land resources. Rainforests, mainly at low altitudes in equatorial western Africa, vary greatly in the degree of disturbance by hunting, agriculture, and timber extraction. Mountain forests (see Mountains and Highlands) are attracting much attention from conservationists because several species of plants and animals found refuge in the mountains in past dry intervals, and many of their descendants are now rare and of great scientific interest. Lakes and rivers are being increasingly exploited by growing populations (see the Great Lakes and Rivers and Wetlands). Water quality of these bodies is liable to be damaged by mining wastes and chemical treatment of metal ores, and their natural oscillations, modified by dams for irrigation or for generating electricity. Oil and natural gas are being won from coastal geological formations on the western coast of Africa. Sources of petroleum have been discovered in the vicinity of the Nile and Rift valley lakes, and their rich fish faunas may now be threatened by pollutants. The African Coasts appear to be a relatively neglected subject of geographical study.

                                                                                  The Sahara and the Libyan Desert

                                                                                  The Sahara is the largest desert in the world. The French geographer E. F. Gautier, a professor at the University of Algiers, traveled widely there early in the 20th century, especially in the Ahaggar Mountains, and contributed to the archaeozoology of North Africa. His work in the Sahara (Gautier 1935) was continued by Capot-Rey 1953. Ralph A. Bagnold made fundamental studies in the laboratory of the movement of sand under the wind and, in the Libyan desert, studied the formation of desert dunes (Bagnold 2010). Martin A. J. Williams, based in Australia, has pursued palaeoclimatic and geological research in the Nile valley and elsewhere since the 1970s, whereas Hugues Faure, a French geologist, made numerous studies of the geology and palaeoclimatology of the Sahara. Williams and Faure 1980 presents contributions on the region’s climate history, landscape evolution, and prehistoric occupation. Helga Besler (Besler 2008) is a geographer and sedimentologist. Goudie 2002 includes chapters on the Sahara, the Libyan desert, and the Horn of Africa. Many references to the physical geography of African countries bordering the Mediterranean appear in Woodward 2009.

                                                                                  • Bagnold, Ralph A. Libyan Sands: Travel in a Dead World. London: Eland, 2010.

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                                                                                    Originally published in 1935 (London: Hodder and Stoughton). Desert dunes as they were seen and studied in the 1930s by Brigadier Ralph Bagnold, fellow of the Royal Society and a British soldier, explorer, and scientist.

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                                                                                    • Besler, Helga. “The Great Sand Sea in Egypt: Formation, Dynamics and Environmental Change: A Sediment-Analytical Approach.” Developments in Sedimentology. Amsterdam and London: Elsevier, 2008.

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                                                                                      A history of 266 pages, based on sedimentary analysis.

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                                                                                      • Capot-Rey, Robert. Le Sahara français. Pays d’outre-mer: Geographie de l’union français: L’Afrique blanche française. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1953.

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                                                                                        A comprehensive geographical study published shortly before the end of French rule in Algeria and Tunisia.

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                                                                                        • Gautier, E. F. Sahara, the Great Desert. Translated by Dorothy Ford Mayhew. New York: Columbia University Press, 1935.

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                                                                                          Originally published in 1923, in French, as Le Sahara (Paris: Payot); 1970 reprint (London: Cass). Recognized that the climate, especially of the western Sahara, was much wetter in the not very distant past. Includes a foreword by Douglas Johnson, who was a professor of physiography at Columbia University.

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                                                                                          • Goudie, Andrew S. Great Warm Deserts of the World: Landscapes and Evolution. Geomorphological Landscapes of the World 1. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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                                                                                            Accounts of the African deserts may be found on pages 87–151.

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                                                                                            • Williams, Martin A. J., and Hugues Faure, eds. The Sahara and the Nile: Quaternary Environments and Prehistoric Occupation in Northern Africa. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Balkema, 1980.

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                                                                                              Twenty-two substantial papers by recognized authorities on the region’s climate history, landscape evolution, and prehistoric occupation.

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                                                                                              • Woodward, J., ed. The Physical Geography of the Mediterranean. Oxford Regional Environments. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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                                                                                                Includes Chapter 14, “Aeolian Processes and Landforms,” by Andrew S. Goudie

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                                                                                                Southern Africa’s Environment

                                                                                                The west of southern Africa is deprived of rain by the cold Benguela current offshore, the interior is under the influence of high-atmospheric-pressure systems, the east receives summer rains from the Indian Ocean, and the extreme south is watered in winter by South Atlantic depressions. The environment varies accordingly. Thomas and Shaw 1991 summarizes earlier work and adds new research, covering the physical background, geomorphology, environmental setting, and human geography of the interior. The anthropologist Robert K. Hitchcock, who has published extensively on the San people of the Kalahari, is mainly concerned with the Basarwa people of eastern Botswana in his work (Hitchcock 1996). Dean and Milton 1999 brings together several studies of a unique region. Cowling, et al. 1997 provides a comprehensive account of the physiography, climate, and vegetation of southern Africa, an area of about a million square miles, including accounts of its coastal and marine vegetation, the effects of fire, human and animal use of the vegetation, and plant invasions. B. J. Huntley, the director of the South African National Botanical Institute, states in the foreword that the work builds on the results of the renaissance of South African plant ecology, which occurred from the mid-1970s to the end of the 1980s.

                                                                                                • Cowling, R. M., D. M. Richardson, and S. M. Pierce, eds. The Vegetation of Southern Africa. Cambridge, UK, and New York. Cambridge University Press. 1997.

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                                                                                                  A splendid book in its expert coverage of the subject and its presentation.

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                                                                                                  • Dean, W. Richard J., and Suzanne J. Milton, eds. The Karoo: Ecological Patterns and Processes. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press. 1999.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511541988Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    A region with high levels of endemism, rich in succulent and geophytic plants and in certain groups of invertebrates and reptiles.

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                                                                                                    • Hitchcock, Robert K. Kalahari Communities: Bushmen and the Politics of the Environment in Southern Africa. International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs Document 79. Copenhagen: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, 1996.

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                                                                                                      Presents the Kalahari environment as the home of the San hunter-gatherers.

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                                                                                                      • Thomas, David S. G., and Paul A. Shaw. The Kalahari Environment. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                        The physical background, environmental history, and human activities from the Stone Age to the late 20th century.

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                                                                                                        Savanna

                                                                                                        Grasslands with trees occupy a larger part of Africa than either rainforests or deserts. Savanna soils are commonly difficult to cultivate successfully, and rainfall is uncertain. Much of the land is grazed by cattle, and the dead grasses are burned in the dry season to stimulate new growth. Among the contributors to Bassett and Crummey 2003 are researchers from Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe who write about the environments of those countries. All emphasize the value of local knowledge and the need to bridge the gap between the social and physical sciences. Shorrocks 2007 describes savanna plant and animal populations and the influences on them. Archibald, et al. 2005 explores the effect of fire on grazing and the persistence of grazed patches in a South African savanna landscape. Muchiru, et al. 2009 also shows how the savanna landscape can be modified by livestock.

                                                                                                        • Archibald, S., W. J. Bond, W. D. Stock, and D. H. K. Fairbanks. “Shaping the Landscape: Fire–Grazer Interactions in an African Savanna.” Ecological Applications 15.1 (2005): 96–109.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1890/03-5210Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          Explores the effect of fire on grazing and the persistence of grazed patches in a South African savanna landscape. Available online by subscription.

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                                                                                                          • Bassett, Thomas J., and Donald Crummey, eds. African Savannas: Global Narratives and Local Knowledge of Environmental Change. Oxford: James Currey. 2003.

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                                                                                                            Questions many conventional ideas concerning the nature and causes of environmental problems in African savanna regions.

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                                                                                                            • Muchiru, A. N., D. Western, and R. S. Reid. “The Impact of Abandoned Pastoral Settlements on Plant and Nutrient Succession in an African Savanna System.” Journal of Arid Environments 73.3 (2009): 322–331.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2008.09.018Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              Found that herbaceous biomass, soil nutrients, and crop yields on former livestock settlements remained elevated for several decades. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                              • Shorrocks, Bryan. The Biology of African Savannahs. Biology of Habitats. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198570660.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                Suitable for university students.

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                                                                                                                Rainforests

                                                                                                                The rainforests of Africa are most extensive in the Congo basin and adjacent regions to the north, which were under Belgian, French, British, Spanish, and (until 1918) German rule. Much of the early literature is consequently not in English. The forests have not suffered as severely from exploitation as those of Latin America and Southeast Asia, in part because of disturbed political situations. In the second edition of The Tropical Rain Forest (Richards 1996), P. W. Richards found it necessary, in view of the pollen and climatic studies that had appeared in the previous decade or two, to replace the “old notion of the stability of rain forests over long periods of time,” as was expressed in the first edition of 1952, with “a dynamic concept of rainforests as kaleidoscopic mosaics continually reacting to climatic changes and human processes. The rather rigid concept of rain-forest structure and stratification of Edition 1 has become less formal” (p. viii). Instead of rainforest diversity being an outcome of environmental stability, it could result from great variability through time, with the greatest diversity and endemism to be expected in high-rainfall refuge areas. Martin 1991 attempts to convey a feeling for and an understanding of the rainforests and to contribute to their conservation by providing a comprehensive account of their ecology and by illustrating it with numerous excellent photographs. Weber, et al. 2001 traces the history of African rainforest environments and the uses made of the forest by hunters, farmers, and commercial foresters. Laporte, et al. 2008 offers a good example of the way in which remote sensing technologies can assist conservationists and park managers in quantifying the impact of management policies on habitat dynamics, especially when integrated with data from long-term field studies. Jackson 2008 gives a lively account of the reptiles and amphibians and the problems the author encountered as a herpetologist in the flooded forests of the northern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

                                                                                                                • Jackson, Kate. Mean and Lowly Things: Snakes, Science, and Survival in the Congo. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                                  An enjoyable and instructive read.

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                                                                                                                  • Laporte, Nadine, Wayne Walker, Jared Stabach, and Florence Landsberg. “Monitoring Forest–Savanna Dynamics in Kibale National Park with Satellite Imagery (1989–2003): Implications for the Management of Wildlife Habitat.” Paper presented at the Long-Term Research and Conservation Workshop, 15–17 June 2007. In Science and Conservation in African Forests: The Benefits of Long-Term Research. Edited by Richard Wrangham and Elizabeth Ross, 38–50. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511754920.007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    A case study from Kibale National Park, in Uganda.

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                                                                                                                    • Martin, Claude. The Rainforests of West Africa: Ecology, Threats, Conservation. Translated by Linda Tsardakas. Basel, Switzerland, and Boston: Birkhäuser Verlag, 1991.

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                                                                                                                      An attractive study and a good introduction to the subject

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                                                                                                                      • Richards, P. W. The Tropical Rain Forest: An Ecological Study. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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                                                                                                                        A standard work on the subject.

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                                                                                                                        • Weber, William, Lee, J. T. White, Amy Vedder, and Lisa Naughton-Treves, eds. African Rain Forest Ecology and Conservation: An Interdisciplinary Perspective. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                          Discusses the distribution patterns of mammals, birds, butterflies, and amphibians.

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                                                                                                                          Mountains and Highlands

                                                                                                                          Bruno Messerli and Hans Hurni, Swiss geographers familiar with the mountain environments of Europe, turned their attention to highland regions in East Africa and the Sudan in Messerli and Humi 1990. Burgess, et al. 2007 reports on the Eastern Arc Mountains, renowned in Africa for the hundreds of endemic species of animals and plants. Seventy-one of the endemic or near-endemic species are threatened with extinction, including four species of primates. Hundreds of plant species are also threatened.

                                                                                                                          • Burgess, N. D., T. M. Butynski, N. J. Cordeiro, et al. “The Biological Importance of the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and Kenya.” In Special Issue: Conservation in Areas of High Population Density in Sub-Saharan Africa. Edited by Norbert Cordeiro, Neil D. Burgess, Delali B. K. Dovie, Beth A. Kaplin, Andrew J. Plumptre, and Robert Marrs. Biological Conservation 134.2 (2007): 209–231.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2006.08.015Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            A report by an international team of naturalists on one of the world’s most threatened regions of biodiversity significance. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                            • Messerli, Bruno, and Hans Hurni, eds. African Mountains and Highlands: Problems and Perspectives. Papers presented at the First African Mountains Workshop, Addis Ababa University, 18–26 October 1986. Asmara, Ethiopia: African Mountains Association, 1990.

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                                                                                                                              Pays attention to the soils, soil conservation, water, vegetation, and wildlife in upland East Africa and Jebel Marra.

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                                                                                                                              The Great Lakes

                                                                                                                              The Great Lakes are especially precious features of the East African environment, valuable on account of the beauty of their settings; their long-term and short-term evolutionary histories; and their wildlife, fisheries, and economic potential. The number of references provided by Crul, et al. 1995 is indicative of the interest of the lakes to ecologists and environmentalists. Beadle’s second edition of The Inland Waters of Tropical Africa (Beadle 1981), appearing only seven years after the first edition, included much new material, especially relating to Lake Turkana, Lake Chad, the Okavango delta, and man-made lakes. Contributions to Johnson and Odada 1996 help update Beadle’s study.

                                                                                                                              • Beadle, L. C. The Inland Waters of Tropical Africa: An Introduction to Tropical Limnology. 2d ed. London and New York: Longman, 1981.

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                                                                                                                                Technical information is presented here in a style and language understandable to the nonspecialist.

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                                                                                                                                • Crul, R. C. M., G. T. Silvestre, D. J. Postma, M. J. P. van Oijen, T. O. Acere, and G. Bongers. A Bibliography of Lake Victoria (East Africa). Paris: UNESCO, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                  Gives references to 2,180 books, bibliographies, and scientific papers, mainly relating to fish and fisheries.

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                                                                                                                                  • Johnson, Thomas C., and Eric O. Odada, eds. The Limnology, Climatology and Palaeoclimatology of the East African Lakes. Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                    Contains thirty-seven contributions on early research, the tectonic setting, East African climate, physical limnology, aquatic chemistry, food webs and fisheries, sedimentary processes, and the environmental impact of humans.

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                                                                                                                                    The Nile

                                                                                                                                    The importance of the Nile and the length of its history place it in a class of its own among the world’s rivers. H. E. Hurst, a British mathematician and hydrologist, had sixty years of experience with the Nile and carried out fieldwork throughout the basin (Hurst 1957). Julian Rzóska (Rzóska 1976) was an émigré Polish hydrobiologist who organized and led integrated ecological studies of the Nile, notably in the Sudd region, between 1947 and 1974. Mamdouh Shahin was faced with an enormous task in writing Hydrology of the Nile Basin, which he completed successfully (Shahin 1985). Said 1993 brings together the geology, geography, and hydrology of the river in a very readable form. John Sutcliffe, a member of the Jonglei investigation team during the 1950s, later joined the Institute of Hydrology, Wallingford. He has continued to be involved in studies of the Nile (Sutcliffe and Parks 1999) and various other rivers and has also researched ancient irrigation systems in India. In The Nile (Dumont 2009) forty international specialists in their fields cover the geological history, hydrology, climate, plants and animals, pollution, and eutrophication of the river and conclude with policy studies of the riparian states. Collins 2002, whose author is an emeritus professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is probably the best book on the subject for the general reader.

                                                                                                                                    • Collins, Robert O. The Nile. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                      Includes the construction of the Aswan High Dam and more recent, large-scale engineering works.

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                                                                                                                                      • Dumont, Henri J., ed. The Nile: Origin, Environments, Limnology and Human Use. Monographiae biologicae 89. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                        A comprehensive volume unlikely to be superseded for many years.

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                                                                                                                                        • Hurst, H. E. The Nile: A General Account of the River and the Utilization of Its Waters. Rev. ed. London: Constable, 1957.

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                                                                                                                                          A general account of the river and the use of its waters, on a popular level, dealing with the river before the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

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                                                                                                                                          • Rzóska, Julian, ed. The Nile: Biology of an Ancient River. Monographiae biologicae 29. The Hague: Junk, 1976.

                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1007/978-94-010-1563-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                            The first book on the biology of the whole river system. Approximately half the chapters are by Rzóska.

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                                                                                                                                            • Said, Rushdi. The River Nile: Geology, Hydrology and Utilization. Oxford and New York: Pergamon, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                              By a former head of the Geological Survey of Egypt.

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                                                                                                                                              • Shahin, Mamdouh. Hydrology of the Nile Basin. Developments in Water Science 21. Amsterdam and New York: Elsevier, 1985.

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                                                                                                                                                Summarizes the forty volumes of The Nile Basin by H. E. Hurst and his colleagues.

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                                                                                                                                                • Sutcliffe, J. V., and Y. P. Parks. The Hydrology of the Nile. International Association of Hydrological Sciences Special Publication 5. Wallingford, UK: International Association of Hydrological Sciences, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                  John Sutcliffe has made several studies of the hydrology of the Nile and its headwater lakes in East Africa. Yvonne Parks has investigated the likely effects of the proposed Jonglei Canal on the wetlands of southern Sudan.

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                                                                                                                                                  Rivers and Wetlands

                                                                                                                                                  Julian Rzóska, having spent many years studying the ecology of the Nile, turned his attention in later life to the Niger. He had in mind a book on the river like Rzóska 1976 (cited under the Nile), but illness forced him to find someone else to carry out his intentions. The outcome was the Grove 1985 edited volume. The rivers that provided opportunities for early European exploration of the continent are, in the early 21st century, being exploited for irrigation and electricity, sometimes to the benefit of African peoples, often, as Adams 1992 explains, to their dismay. Four of the continent’s big rivers include inland deltas, the complexities and sensitivities of which have been explored with the aid of air photographs and satellite imagery by McCarthy 1993. Discharge values of several rivers in French colonial African territories were measured by the French Office de la recherche scientifique et technique d’outre-mer (ORSTOM), an organization superseded by the Institut de recherche pour le development (IRD). These discharge figures and others from different sources are included in the publication UNESCO 1995. Degeorges and Reilly 2007 and Koopman 2009 exemplify the concerns in Adams 1992 about large-scale river development projects. Declan Conway and Aurelie Persechino, at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, with colleagues from France and South Africa, examine the 20th-century flow records of nine major international river systems in sub-Saharan Africa and find marked interregional and relatively modest intraregional variations in flow. Their work, Conway, et al. 2009, concludes that it would be difficult to identify hydrological change in Africa. Showers 2009 critically reviews a potential water power project that would be the greatest in Africa’s history but that might not be to the benefit of Africans.

                                                                                                                                                  Coasts

                                                                                                                                                  Writings on the environment of the African coast are not abundant, and so the account given by Orme 1996 is especially valuable. It points to the fundamental importance of the faulting that accompanied the breakup of Gondwanaland, the lack of deep inlets, the steep rise to the interior in many regions, and the influence of warm and cold currents on the distribution of coral reefs. According to Saenger and Bellan 1995, there are only six indigenous and one introduced species of mangrove on the Atlantic coast of Africa, and they were formerly much more widespread than in the early 21st century. Ndenecho 2007 explains that the fragile mangrove ecosystem is under increasing biological stress from industry, fishing, and urban activities, and Lubke 2008 finds that dune systems on the east coast of southern Africa need protection.

                                                                                                                                                  • Lubke, R. A. “Vegetation Dynamics and Succession on Sand Dunes of the Eastern Coasts of Africa.” In Coastal Dunes: Ecology and Conservation. Edited by M. Luisa Martínez and Norbert P. Psuty, 67–84. Ecological Studies 171. Berlin and New York: Springer, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                    As elsewhere in the world, many of the dune systems are in nature reserves sited in coastal areas for recreational purposes.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Ndenecho, Emmanuel Neba. “Economic Value and Management of Mangrove Forests in Cameroon.” International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology 14.6 (2007): 618–625.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1080/13504500709469759Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      Finds that private and public sectors regard mangrove forests as wasteland. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Orme, A. R. “Coastal Environments.” In The Physical Geography of Africa. Edited by W. M. Adams, A. S. Goudie, and A. R. Orme, 238–266. Oxford Regional Environments. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                        Accompanied by several informative maps and diagrams.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Saenger, Peter, and M. F. Bellan. The Mangrove Vegetation of the Atlantic Coast of Africa: A Review. Toulouse, France: University of Toulouse, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                                          Gives many references. The limited extent and species composition of the mangroves of western Africa is attributed to cold ocean currents, sea level, and climate changes of recent millennia, plus the effects of salt production, rice growing, and oil pollution.

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                                                                                                                                                          Wildlife

                                                                                                                                                          African wildlife attracts the attention of many ecologists because of its richness and diversity. The species distribution pattern is to be explained largely in terms of the climatic and tectonic history of the continent. Wildlife is a source of food for Africans. The great rivers and lakes and the coastal waters, especially the cold ocean currents along the West African coasts, are very important sources of food for local people. However, fishing boats from foreign countries take much of the offshore catch, and the fish resources of the continent are threatened by interference with river flows by dams constructed to generate electricity or to provide irrigation water (see Fish and Fisheries). Lake fisheries have been transformed by the introduction of exotic species of plants and fish. The distribution patterns of African bird species are related to past variations in climate (see Birdlife). New technology allows migratory movements to be identified as never before. The wildlife of rainforests and savannas is becoming increasingly confined to reserves, which local people often regard as trespassing on their land rights (see Threats to Wildlife).

                                                                                                                                                          Fish and Fisheries

                                                                                                                                                          African river, lake, and sea fisheries are sources of food for local people and for markets worldwide. Their conservation is therefore important economically as well as environmentally. Carmouze, et al. 1983 presents the results of the work of a French team of hydrobiologists who studied Lake Chad from 1965 up to its shrinkage in the mid-1970s. They found that ecologically the lake was closer to the flood zones of large tropical rivers than to true lakes. Lowe-McConnell 1985 provides a West African context for the fisheries of Lake Chad. Based on many years of personal experience with the Rift valley lakes, Lowe-McConnell 1993 traces the history of the world’s richest lacustrine fish faunas and their vulnerability. Lévêque 1997 emphasizes that successful conservation entails knowledge of the species present and their abundance.

                                                                                                                                                          • Carmouze, J. P., J. R. Durand, and C. Lévêque. Lake Chad: Ecology and Productivity of a Shallow Tropical Ecosystem. Monographiae biologicae 53. The Hague and Boston: Junk, 1983.

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                                                                                                                                                            The shrinking of Lake Chad in the 1970s and 1980s greatly affected fisheries.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Lévêque, Christian. Biodiversity Dynamics and Conservation: The Freshwater Fish of Tropical Africa. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                              An important study of tropical African freshwater fish, discussing how they evolved and the dangers facing them.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Lowe-McConnell, R. H. “The Biology of the River Systems with Particular Reference to the Fishes.” In The Niger and Its Neighbours: Environmental History and Hydrobiology, Human Use and Health Hazards of the Major West African Rivers. Edited by A. T. Grove, 101–140. Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and Boston: Balkema, 1985.

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                                                                                                                                                                Describes the fish and fisheries of the Senegal, Niger, and the Benue Rivers and Lake Chad. Lakes and rivers have similar fish faunas, attributable to wetter periods in the late Pleistocene and the early Holocene, when fish from the Nile system were able to reach Mega-Chad, and water from that great lake overflowed into the Benue and thereby reached the Niger.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Lowe-McConnell, Rosemary H. “Fish Faunas of the African Great Lakes: Origins, Diversity, and Vulnerability.” Conservation Biology 7.3 (1993): 634–643.

                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1046/j.1523-1739.1993.07030634.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  Summarizes the results of studies made over many years by the author and her colleagues. Available online by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Birdlife

                                                                                                                                                                  Reginald Moreau was a civil servant in Egypt in the 1920s and later a librarian at the Agricultural and Forestry Research Station at Amani, in Tanzania, formerly a research establishment of the German colonial government in East Africa. He made good use of the opportunities the research station afforded him for the study of local birdlife, keeping detailed records of his observations of local birds, their nests and feeding habits. Upon his retirement in 1946, Moreau became the editor of the journal Ibis, a position he held for fifteen years. Subsequently, he published The Bird Faunas of Africa and Its Islands (Moreau 1966) and then assisted B. P. Hall with An Atlas of Speciation in African Passerine Birds (Hall and Moreau 1970). Moreau was the first to give credit to Hall for 90 percent of the work involved in preparing this work, which provides 439 two-color maps, showing the distributions of the 962 resident passerine (perching) birds in Africa south of 20 degrees north, together with a large number of their subspecies.

                                                                                                                                                                  • Hall, B. P., and R. E. Moreau. An Atlas of Speciation in African Passerine Birds. London: British Museum, 1970.

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                                                                                                                                                                    This was the first attempt to show the continuing process of evolution in a continental avifauna by plotting on one map the distribution of species believed to be immediately descended from a common ancestor.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Moreau, R. E. The Bird Faunas of Africa and Its Islands. New York, Academic Press, 1966.

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                                                                                                                                                                      The similarity of the assemblages of bird species on widely separated highland areas stimulated Moreau’s interest in African climate history.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Threats to Wildlife

                                                                                                                                                                      Brushares, et al. 2004 finds that when fish supplies diminish in West African forest regions, bush meat demand increases, and the biomass of wildlife species declines. Willcox and Nambu 2007 shows a similar threat to wildlife in southwestern Cameroon, where several important species, including primates, are endangered by the bush meat trade. Wasser, et al. 2009 reports on the resurgence of elephant poaching and the measures being taken against it.

                                                                                                                                                                      • Brushares, Justin S., Peter Arcese, Moses K. Sam, Peter B. Coppolillo, A. R. E. Sinclair, and Andrew Balmford. “Bushmeat Hunting, Wildlife Declines, and Fish Supply in West Africa.” Science 306.5699 (2004): 1180–1183.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1126/science.1102425Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        Points to an urgent need to develop cheap protein foodstuffs to avert extinction of wildlife when normal supplies of food are scarce. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Wasser, Samuel K., Bill Clark, and Cathy Laurie. “The Ivory Trail.” Scientific American, July 2009, 68–76.

                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1038/scientificamerican0709-68Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          Looks at the use of DNA analysis for tracing the source of tusks, thereby assisting in the identification of source areas. Available online by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Willcox, Adam S., and Diangha Mercy Nambu. “Wildlife Hunting Practices and Bushmeat Dynamics of the Banyangi and Mbo People of Southwestern Cameroon.” In Special Issue: Conservation in Areas of High Population Density in Sub-Saharan Africa. Edited by Norbert Cordeiro, Neil D. Burgess, Delali B. K. Dovie, Beth A. Kaplin, Andrew J. Plumptre, and Robert Marrs. Biological Conservation 134.2 (2007): 251–261.

                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2006.08.016Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            Bush meat was found to be a cheaper source of protein than alternatives available in the nearest town. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                            Environmental Threats and Conservation

                                                                                                                                                                            The Sahelian droughts of the 1970s and the 1980s, followed by concerns about the threat of climate change accompanying global warming, have renewed fears of desert conditions spreading outside present limits (see Desertification). The Sahara is already a major source of atmospheric dust in the form of diatomite, the product of lakes that formed in an early Holocene, wetter climate. This Saharan Dust could conceivably retard warming. Forest destruction has in the past been seen as accompanying the spread of deserts, with both being the result of human action (see Deforestation and Afforestation). More recently, the evidence for African cultivators being responsible for the destruction of forests has been questioned, and it has been realized that the cultivators commonly encourage the extension of the area under trees. Similarly, it has been pointed out that increased numbers of people require more intensive use of the land and that this is accompanied by improved infrastructure and greater care in the conservation of the soil and the prevention of its erosion (see Land Degradation, Soil Erosion, and Soil Conservation). At the same time, wildlife conservationists are recognizing that rural Africans must be acknowledged in the future as the main actors in preserving wildlife rather than being looked upon as the obstacle to its protection (Environmental Conservation).

                                                                                                                                                                            Desertification

                                                                                                                                                                            Visitors to the Sahel in the interwar period, such as E. William Bovill and E. P. Stebbing (see Bovill 1921 and Stebbing 1935), were inclined to conclude that the desert was advancing, especially if their visits happened to be in the dry season, as was usually the case. Brynmor Jones, a geologist with the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency, had greater local knowledge and did not agree that the Sahara was encroaching (Jones 1938). When the long drought of the 1970s and 1980s again generated concern about desertification, Charney, et al. 1975 concluded that a decrease in plant cover would be reinforced by a decrease in rainfall, thus initiating or perpetuating a drought. Later studies questioned the value of doomsday scenarios. A more elaborate sequence of events was proposed in Schlesinger, et al. 1990. Michael Mortimore, after more than thirty years’ experience teaching and researching in northern Nigeria universities and then studying the situation in Machakos (see Tiffen, et al. 1994, cited under Land Degradation, Soil Erosion, and Soil Conservation), regards the solution to dryland problems as lying in an intensification of production (Mortimore 1998). Batterbury and Warren 2001 reviews the continuing debate. Herrmann and Hutchinson 2005 examines the contexts in which the debate has taken place and shows how those contexts have contributed to our understanding of the processes contributing to the idea of desertification. In particular, the authors point to an increased awareness of the great range through which climate can vary in the early 21st century.

                                                                                                                                                                            • Batterbury, Simon, and Andrew Warren. “The African Sahel 25 Years after the Great Drought: Assessing Progress and Moving towards New Agendas and Approaches.” In Special Issue: The African Sahel. Edited by Simon Batterbury and Andrew Warren. Global Environmental Change 11.1 (2001): 1–8.

                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1016/S0959-3780(00)00040-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              Reviews several papers on future policy for the Sahel and concludes there are no quick-fix development solutions, except to build on the historical diversity of the region. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Bovill, E. William. “The Encroachment of the Sahara on the Sudan.” African Affairs 20.79 (1921): 174–185.

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                                                                                                                                                                                According to Bovill, “The destructive hand of man is an agent of desiccation in the Nigerian Sudan as in the Sahara” (African Affairs 20.80: 268). The author’s views, based on his wartime experience in northern Nigeria in the years following the 1913–1914 drought, may have had more influence than they deserved. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Charney, J., P. H. Stone, and W. J. Quirk. “Drought in the Sahara: A Biophysical Feedback Mechanism.” Science 187.4175 (1975): 434–435.

                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1126/science.187.4175.434Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                  Compared global general circulation models with albedos differing from decreased plant cover and found associated decrease in rainfall. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Herrmann, S. M. and C. F. Hutchinson. “The Changing Contexts of the Desertification Debate.” In Special Issue: The “Greening” of the Sahel. Edited by C. F. Hutchinson and S. M. Herrmann. Journal of Arid Environments 63.3 (2005): 538–555.

                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2005.03.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                    Sees changes in our understanding of climatic variability, vegetation responses to perturbation, household responses, and desertification as a political artifact. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Jones, Brynmor. “Desiccation and the West African Colonies.” Geographical Journal 91.5 (1938): 401–423.

                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/1787502Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                      Jones argued that the threat was not as great as Stebbing 1935 claimed. Available online by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Mortimore, Michael. Roots in the African Dust: Sustaining the Sub-Saharan Drylands. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511560064Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                        Describes the land use situation in northernmost Nigeria and considers the question of a critical population density.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Schlesinger, William H., James F. Reynolds, Gary L Cunningham, et al. “Biological Feedbacks in Global Desertification.” Science 247.4946 (1990): 1043–1048.

                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1126/science.247.4946.1043Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          Suggests that under long-term grazing, water and other soil resources become more heterogeneous, leading to the invasion of grassland by shrubs, allowing removal of soil materials by wind and water. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Stebbing, E. P. “The Encroaching Sahara: The Threat to the West African Colonies.” Geographical Journal 85.6 (1935): 506–519.

                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.2307/1785870Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                            Stebbing, a forester in India and later a professor of forestry in Edinburgh, considered that ongoing desiccation in northern Nigeria was being caused by native farming methods, forest burning, and overgrazing by livestock. Available online by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            Saharan Dust

                                                                                                                                                                                            Atmospheric dust has an important effect on solar radiation and thus on climate. The Sahara is believed to be the world’s main source. Goudie and Middleton 2001 points to two major sources of Saharan dust: the Bodélé depression (once the bottom of Mega-Chad) and an area in the western Sahara extending over eastern Mauritania, western Mali, and southern Algeria. Schwanghart and Schütt 2008 finds that Harmattan dust mobilization is influenced by the strengthening in winter of high atmospheric pressure in the Mediterranean region north of the Bodélé depression. Bristow, et al. 2009 calculates that several millimeters of diatomite per year have been removed by deflation from the floor of the depression, revealing, to the northeast, a network of distributaries in an ancient delta.

                                                                                                                                                                                            • Bristow, Charles S., Nick Drake, and Simon Armitage. “Deflation in the Dustiest Place on Earth: The Bodélé Depression, Chad.” In Special Issue: Contemporary Research in Aeolian Geomorphology: 6th International Conference on Aeolian Research (ICAR VI). Edited by B. O. Bauer and N. Lancaster. Geomorphology 105.1–2 (2009): 50–58.

                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2007.12.014Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                              Estimates the rate of dust production, in the form of diatomite eroded by wind-driven sand, at 61,000 cubic kilometers since the beginning of the 2nd millennium. The author of this bibliography found that an arithmetical error had been made in the original calculation. The figure should be 61 cubic kilometers, still a formidable quantity. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Goudie, A. S., and N. J. Middleton. “Saharan Dust Storms: Nature and Consequences.” Earth-Science Reviews 56.1–4 (2001): 179–204.

                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1016/S0012-8252(01)00067-8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                Makes use of the total ozone mapping spectrometer (TOMS). Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Schwanghart, Wolfgang, and Brigitta Schütt. “Meteorological Causes of Harmattan Dust in West Africa.” Geomorphology 95.3–4 (2008): 412–428.|

                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2007.07.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Also makes use of TOMS, available from 1978 to 1993, plus winter and summer meteorological maps. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Deforestation and Afforestation

                                                                                                                                                                                                  In Aubréville 1949 a French forester expressed the view, mainly from his observations in Guinea, that humanly induced deserts were forming in previously forested areas receiving 750–1,500 millimeters of rain a year—regions well outside the Sahel, to which the term desertification is most frequently attached. From their archival, air photograph, and field researches in Guinea and elsewhere in West Africa, James Fairhead and Melissa Leach, at the University of Sussex, argue that Aubréville and others were mistaken in blaming deforestation in West Africa on the activities of native people. Their work, Fairhead and Leach 1998, finds that African farmers frequently extend forest rather than destroying it. Akpalu and Parks 2007 asserts that early-21st-century taxation does not adequately compensate for the destruction by mining of forest and forest soils in parts of Ghana. Since 1990 customary land rights in Africa have been widely accepted as statutorily protected, and Sheridan and Nyamweru 2008 presents several examples of local communities becoming recognized as conservators of sacred groves.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Akpalu, Wisdom, and Peter J. Parks. “Natural Resource Use Conflict: Gold Mining in Tropical Rainforest in Ghana.” Environment and Development Economics 12.1 (2007): 55–72.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1017/S1355770X0600338XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Considers appropriate taxation rates on gold mining and concludes they were too low to represent fully the forest benefits lost. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Aubréville, A. Climats, forêts et desertification de l’Afrique tropicale. Paris: Sociéte des editions géographiques, maritimes et coloniales, 1949.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      Aubréville coined the term desertification to denote the replacement of tropical African rainforest by secondary savanna and scrub as a result of tree clearing and burning associated with shifting cultivation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Fairhead, James, and Melissa Leach. Reframing Deforestation: Global Analyses and Local Realities: Studies in West Africa. Global Environmental Change. London and New York: Routledge, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        The authors show that Africans in Guinea and elsewhere in West Africa have protected and planted trees, extending the forest of village areas into the surrounding savanna grasslands.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Sheridan, Michael J., and Celia Nyamweru, eds. African Sacred Groves: Ecological Dynamics and Social Change. Oxford: James Curry, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          Considers the role of sacred groves in a dozen examples from various places between Morocco and Madagascar.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          Land Degradation, Soil Erosion, and Soil Conservation

                                                                                                                                                                                                          These subjects receive less attention in writings on the African environment than they did in the mid-to-late 20th century. Stocking 1996 places the subject in perspective, finding that rates of soil erosion in Africa can be very high locally where vegetation cover is sparse but that studies made in intertropical Africa around 1980 demonstrate that river basin erosion rates there were relatively modest as compared with other parts of the world. Tiffen, et al. 1994 shows that although environmental conditions in the Machakos region of the Kenya highlands were very degraded in the 1930s, subsequently, despite population increase—or because of it—erosion diminished, and by the 1990s fertility had markedly improved. Keeley and Scoones 2003 examines the interrelationships of science and politics in three African countries: Ethiopia, Mali, and Zimbabwe. Showers 2005 concludes from the author’s studies in Lesotho that the great gullies there were mainly caused by soil conservation engineering works. Kidane-Mariam and Levia 2006 considers land degradation to be the most important problem facing Ethiopia, whereas Munro, et al. 2008, comparing early-21st-century ground photos of Tigrai with photos taken in the 1970s, concludes that the plant cover has improved and that, except for gullying, soil erosion has diminished. Nyssen, et al. 2008 finds that photos taken by the Napier expeditionary force show little sign that the vegetation cover in northernmost Ethiopia was better in 1868 than it is in the early 21st century.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Keeley, James, and Ian Scoones. Understanding Environmental Policy Processes: Cases from Africa. London and Sterling, VA: Earthscan, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            Examines soil management and mismanagement in three African countries.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Kidane-Mariam, Tadesse, and Delphis F. Levia Jr.. “The Political Ecology of Land Degradation in Ethiopia.” In Africa’s Development in the Twenty-First Century: Pertinent Socio-Economic and Development Issues. Edited by Kwadwo Konadu-Agyemang, and Kwamina Panford, 139–159. Voices in Development Management. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              Considers land degradation in Ethiopia to be a serious problem that requires an immediate response.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Munro, R. Neil, J. Deckers, Mitiku Haile, A. T. Grove, J. Poesen, and J. Nyssen. “Soil Landscapes, Land Cover Change and Erosion Features of the Central Plateau Region of Tigrai, Ethiopia: PhotoMonitoring with an Interval of 30 Years.” In Special Issue: Environmental Change, Geomorphic Processes and Land Degradation in Tropical Highlands. Edited by Jan Nyssen, Jean Poesen, Nigussie Haregeweyn, and Tony Parsons. Catena 75.1 (2008): 55–64.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1016/j.catena.2008.04.009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Argues that soil conservation measures (and increased rainfall) seem to have helped matters. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Nyssen, Jan, Mituku Haile, Jozef Naudts, et al. “Desertification? Northern Ethiopia Re-photographed after 140 Years.” Science of the Total Environment 407.8 (2008): 2749–2755.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2008.12.016Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Contends that the vegetation cover in northern Ethiopia was no better in precolonial days than it is in the early 21st century. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Showers, Kate B. Imperial Gullies: Soil Erosion and Conservation in Lesotho. Ohio University Press Series in Ecology and History. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A thorough investigation throws new light on various features of the Lesotho environment and its history.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Stocking, M. A. “Soil Erosion.” In The Physical Geography of Africa. Edited by W. M. Adams, A. S. Goudie, and A. R. Orme, 326–341. Oxford Regional Environments. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Finds soil erosion to be “as much a social construction as a physical reality” (p. 326).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Tiffen, Mary, Michael Mortimore, and Francis Gichuki. More People, Less Erosion: Environmental Recovery in Kenya. Chichester, UK, and New York: Wiley 1994.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Shows that more intensive land use and improved infrastructure accompanied increased population density in the Machakos area.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Environmental Conservation

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        David Anderson and Richard Grove were young researchers at the Cambridge University Centre for African Studies. They successfully brought together social scientists and historians to examine the impact of conservation activities on local communities (Anderson and Grove 1987). Adams and McShane 1996 questioned whether Africans should be uprooted in order to provide homes for elephants and gorillas and saw the entire conservation movement in Africa as depending on the ideals and visions of people other than Africans. Ahmed and Mlay 1998 contains twelve contributions, mainly by teachers of anthropology, geography, and economics in African universities. Concerned with rural conditions and trends in different African countries, they painted a gloomy picture of conditions at the end of the century and were not optimistic about future prospects. United Nations Environment Programme 2004 is a lively publication with a dozen important topics presented concisely and clearly, with excellent photographs and diagrams and appropriate references. Neil Burgess, Jennifer d’Amico Hales, Emma Underwood, and Eric Dinerstein, experienced botanists and zoologists at the World Wildlife Fund, have published extensively on conservation in Africa (Burgess, et al. 2004). Cordeiro, et al. 2007, a special issue of Biological Conservation, contains a dozen papers on the use and conservation of forested, mountainous regions in various parts of Africa, notably the Taita Hills of Southeast Kenya and the Virunga Mountains. Bergl, et al. 2007, a contribution to this same journal issue, points to the need for greater protection of montane habitats in important centers of endemism in the Biafran forests. Wrangham and Ross 2008 shows how scientific research benefits conservation management and improves relations with local people as well as providing staff training and a basis for ecotourism.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Adams, Jonathan S., and Thomas O. McShane. The Myth of Wild Africa: Conservation without Illusion. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Argues that successful conservation in Africa requires that rural communities be helped to protect their own environments. Africans should not be regarded as a conservation problem, but as the means of obtaining a solution.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Ahmed, Abdel Ghaffar M., and Wilfred Mlay, eds. Environment and Sustainable Development in Eastern and Southern Africa: Some Critical Issues. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A dozen papers on environmental sustainability and development in eastern and southern Africa.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Anderson, David, and Richard Grove, eds. Conservation in Africa: People, Policies, and Practice. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A successful pioneering effort.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Bergl, R. A., J. F. Oates, and R. Fotso. “Distribution and Protected Area Coverage of Endemic Taxa in West Africa’s Biafran Forests and Highlands.” In Special Issue: Conservation in Areas of High Population Density in Sub-Saharan Africa. Edited by Norbert Cordeiro, Neil D. Burgess, Delali B. K. Dovie, Beth A. Kaplin, Andrew J. Plumptre, and Robert Marrs. Biological Conservation 134.2 (2007): 195–208.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2006.08.013Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                These forests are described as being under intense pressure from habitat loss and hunting. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Burgess, Neil, Jennifer d’Amico Hales, Emma Underwood, and Eric Dinerstein. Terrestrial Ecoregions of Africa and Madagascar: A Conservation Assessment. Washington, DC: Island, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A World Wildlife Fund ecoregion assessment of biodiversity in various regions of Africa, including Madagascar.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Cordeiro, Norbert, Neil D. Burgess, Delali B. K. Dovie, Beth A. Kaplin, Andrew J. Plumptre, and Robert Marrs, eds. Special Issue: Conservation in Areas of High Population Density in Sub-Saharan Africa. Biological Conservation 134.2 (2007).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A dozen papers by experienced African and overseas biologists. Articles available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • United Nations Environment Programme. Africa Environment Outlook: Case Studies: Human Vulnerability to Environmental Change. Stevenage, UK: Earthprint, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Excellent teaching material that may be reproduced in whole or in part for educational purposes without special permission.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Wrangham, Richard, and Elizabeth Ross, eds. Science and Conservation in African Forests: The Benefits of Long-Term Research. Papers presented at a workshop on long-term research and conservation, 15–17 June 2007. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511754920Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Indicates the direction in which conservation research is moving.

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