Oxford University Eritrea ’96: an environmental assessment of the mangroves of Hergigo and Arafaile
Students from the University of Oxford in association with Eritrean scientists conducted a preliminary socio-environmental assessment of the mangrove communities in the Semhar region of the country. Three mangroves have thus far been surveyed: Hergigo, Hamasien and Garar. Research had been recommended by the IUCN and Ministry of Marine Resources in Eritrea. The team aimed to identify the dominant species types within the mangrove ecosystem, to investigate the local vegetational and sea level history and to assess the views of the local population towards the mangrove. Fieldwork revealed that - in contrast to most of the world - Eritrea mangroves have expanded in areal extent during the past 30 years. The new mangrove zone at Hergigo stretches 4.2 km and is up to 400m wide. This zone now supports a wide variety of macrofauna. Future research (Feb/Mar 1996) will target mangroves at Arafaie, Green Island and the Agip Oil terminal. Information gathered will be used in future management and monitoring of the mangrove ecosystems.
Project update: 22/3/97. Mangrove plays a crucial environmental role as pollution sink, coastal protector, habitat for wildlife and nursery for fish. This project conducted a preliminary socio-environmental assessment of the mangrove communities in the Semhar region of Eritrea following recommendations by IUCN and the Ministry of Marine Resources. Fieldwork revealed that - in contrast to most of the world - Eritrean mangroves have expanded in areal extent during the past 30 years of civil war. However, current human activity, such as the intensive use of mangroves by camel herders for fodder, is a significant pressure on the mangroves and the impact was clearly visible in the areas studied. The area is also threatened by salt pan and hotel developments (C. Hillman in litt. 1998; final report summary).