Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features the Sahara Desert on the afternoon of May 3, 2023, as the International Space Station passed above. An astronaut captured this striking image of hills and sand dunes in southern Mauritania.
“A line of dark, flat-topped hills known as mesas dominate the view,” said NASA. “The small town of Guérou is a faint gray patch on the banks of a small stream. The faint line of a road can be seen cutting through the landscape and connecting with Guérou.”
“The mesas are remnants of a large Paleozoic Era sandstone formation. They rise steeply 300 to 400 meters (1,000 to 1,300 feet) above the surrounding plain.”
“Rocky surfaces in deserts often appear dark-toned as a result of a thin layer of black rock varnish that develops on rock surfaces enriched in manganese.”
Southern Mauritania is part of the vast Sahelian region, which serves as a transitional zone between the Sahara Desert to the north and the more fertile savannahs of West Africa to the south.
The southern part of Mauritania is generally flatter and has a semi-arid climate. It receives more rainfall than the northern regions, but it’s still quite sparse. The Senegal River, which forms the border between Mauritania and Senegal, is one of the major rivers in West Africa and is crucial for agriculture in this region.
The area around the Senegal River is the most agriculturally productive part of Mauritania. Rice, millet, and other grains are commonly cultivated. Fishing in the Senegal River is also a significant activity. Despite these resources, southern Mauritania remains relatively poor and underdeveloped.
The region is home to a mix of ethnic groups, including the Moors (both Arab-Berber Moors and Black Moors or Haratin) and various black African ethnic groups such as the Wolof, Pular (or Fulani), and Soninke.
Southern Mauritania faces a variety of challenges. Periodic droughts can devastate local agriculture. There are also socio-economic issues, including poverty, lack of infrastructure, and limited access to education and healthcare.
The Diawling National Park, located in the southwest corner of Mauritania near the Senegal River, is one of the country’s premier protected areas. The park is known for its birdlife and serves as an important wetland habitat.
Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory