Mauritania Geography

What is the terrain and geography like in Mauritania?

Overview:

The Islamic Republic of Mauritania is situated on the Atlantic Ocean in northwest Africa. Mauritania shares its long northern border with the former Spanish Sahara, now the Western Sahara. Spain relinquished control of this area to Morocco in 1976, but its political status is still unresolved.

Mauritania has three distinct geographic regions:

The Saharan Zone, which constitutes the northern two-thirds of Mauritania. Beautiful shifting dunes, rock outcroppings, and rugged mountain plateaus with elevations higher than 1,500 feet characterize this vast, sparsely populated region. Irregular, scant rainfall permits little vegetation, although date palms are cultivated around larger oases and on some of the higher plateaus in the east. Herds of camels, goats, and sheep, which formerly ranged in this area, were depleted during successive droughts in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Riverine Zone, a narrow belt of rich, well-watered alluvial soil stretching along the Senegal River Valley in the south. It is the center of settled agriculture. Rainfall averages 10-25 inches annually.

Between the two is the Sahelian Zone, a broad, east-west band that extends from the riverine zone to just north of Nouakchott. Until recently, annual rainfall averaged 4-18 inches, which was enough to support savannah grasslands suitable for nomadic cattle and sheep herding. However, a decrease in rainfall has diminished the grasslands forcing many inhabitants to move south to the riverine zone or migrate to larger towns. When it rains, it is usually as heavy, localized thunderstorms. Nouakchott, at the northern extreme of this zone, experiences such storms when they occur.

Geography - note:

most of the population is concentrated in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and along the Senegal River in the southern part of the country

Climate:

Mauritania's climate is hot and arid, except in the far south, which has higher humidity. In Nouakchott, daytime temperatures reach 85°F in the winter, although at night sweaters and blankets are needed. Summer temperatures regularly reach over 100°F during the day. It is usually a dry heat that most find more bearable than the same temperatures with high humidity. Summer evenings can be considerably cooler.


The area's fine sand makes beach going one of the highlights of a tour in Nouakchott. However, winds can stir this sand into sandstorms that last several hours. These infrequent sandstorms occur throughout the year, although they are less frequent during the summer and fall months.

Mauritania Use of Natural Resources

Mauritania Environment

Climate:

Mauritania's climate is hot and arid, except in the far south, which has higher humidity. In Nouakchott, daytime temperatures reach 85°F in the winter, although at night sweaters and blankets are needed. Summer temperatures regularly reach over 100°F during the day. It is usually a dry heat that most find more bearable than the same temperatures with high humidity. Summer evenings can be considerably cooler.


The area's fine sand makes beach going one of the highlights of a tour in Nouakchott. However, winds can stir this sand into sandstorms that last several hours. These infrequent sandstorms occur throughout the year, although they are less frequent during the summer and fall months.

Terrain:

mostly barren, flat plains of the Sahara; some central hills

Natural Resources:

iron ore, gypsum, copper, phosphate, diamonds, gold, oil, fish

Natural Hazards:

hot, dry, dust/sand-laden sirocco wind blows primarily in March and April; periodic droughts

Irrigated Land:

174 Square Miles
450 Square Kilometers

Environmental Issues:

overgrazing, deforestation, and soil erosion aggravated by drought are contributing to desertification; very limited natural fresh water resources away from the Senegal, which is the only perennial river

Environment - International Agreements:

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Mauritania Geography

Geographic Location Africa
Total Area 397,953 Square Miles
1,030,700 Square Kilometers
Land Area 397,953 Square Miles
1,030,700 Square Kilometers
Land Boundaries 3,153 Miles
5,074 Kilometers
Irrigated Land 174 Square Miles
450 Square Kilometers
Border Countries Algeria 463 km, Mali 2,237 km, Senegal 813 km, Western Sahara 1,561 km
Coastline 469 Miles
754 Kilometers
Geographic Coordinates 20 00 N, 12 00 W
Terrain mostly barren, flat plains of the Sahara; some central hills
Highest Point 915 Meters
Highest Point Location Kediet Ijill 915 m
Lowest Point -5 Meters
Lowest Point Location Sebkhet Te-n-Dghamcha -5 m
Natural Resources iron ore, gypsum, copper, phosphate, diamonds, gold, oil, fish
Time Zone UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
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