Recent remote sensing studies have documented a greening trend in the semi-arid Sahel and Sudan zones of West Africa since the early 1980s, which challenges the mainstream paradigm of irreversible land degradation in this region. What the greening trend means on the ground, however, has not yet been explored. This research focuses on a region in central Senegal to examine changes in woody vegetation abundance and composition in selected sites by means of a botanical inventory of woody vegetation species, repeat photography, and perceptions of local land users. Despite the greening, an impoverishment of the woody vegetation cover was observed in the studied sites, indicated by an overall reduction in woody species richness, a loss of large trees, an increasing dominance of shrubs, and a shift towards more arid-tolerant, Sahelian species since 1983. Thus, interpretation of the satellite-derived greening trend as an improvement or recovery is not always justified. The case of central Senegal represents only one of several possible pathways of greening throughout the region, all of which result in similar satellite-derived greening signals.
Additional Publication Details
Vegetation impoverishment despite greening: a case study from central Senegal
Journal of Arid Environments
Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center