John Wilson; Richard Primack

Published On


Page Range

pp. 23-60

Print Length

37 pages

2. Introduction to Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa supports extremely diverse ecological communities across its eight terrestrial biomes (which include forests, savannahs, woodlands, grasslands, scrublands, deserts, and mangroves) as well as multiple freshwater and marine ecosystems. The region’s complex climate, geology, and history have contributed to the development of its exceptional biodiversity. Conservation in Africa has gone through major changes over the past few centuries including traditional relationships with nature; exploitation of wildlife and natural resources by European settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries; western practices of setting aside land shielded from human influences; and more recently integrated conservation and development practices. Despite this, Africa’s conservation biologists and the broader public have shown tremendous fortitude and initiative to overcome the various challenges facing biodiversity over the last few decades. This includes greatly expanding the protected areas network, passing laws protecting the environment, and establishing productive partnerships. By reaping the benefits from conservation activities in and around protected areas, many private individuals and local communities have been inspired to take the lead in protecting biodiversity on their own lands. However, there still remain challenges to conservation in Africa, namely, historical legacies, poverty, greed, weak governance, consumptive needs by an increasing human population, and competing interests. Many of these challenges lead to threats to the future persistence of many species and ecosystems, including environmental degradation and overharvesting.