Sunday, January 3, 2010

MUST SEEN IN AFRICA - 1 [Day Forest - Djibouti]

The Republic of Djibouti is situated in the Horn of Africa on Africa’s east coast, bordered to the north by Eritrea, to the west by Ethiopia, to the south by Somalia, and to the east by the Gulf of Aden. Djibouti covers 8,400 square miles (21,883 square kilometers).

The country is shaped like a “C” surrounding the Gulf of Tadjoura, an inlet off the Gulf of Aden. Along with Eritrea and Yemen, Djibouti shares direct access to the strategic Bab el Mandeb, the “Gate of Tears,” which controls southern access to the Red Sea.

The landscape beyond the capital city [Djibouti], is quite impressive. Beyond the Gulf of Tadjoura via a narrow strait is the Goubet, a deep body of blue water with two striking volcanic islands. The coastline north of the Gulf of Tadjoura juxtaposes palm-lined beaches with jagged hills. In the north a large high desert region rises to Mount Moussa Ali, the highest point in Djibouti (3,600 feet).

Also to the north is the Forêt du Day, a national park on Mount Goda. In this last vestige of a forest that once covered the area are several rare plants and animals, including monkeys and antelope.

Lake Assal, a unique natural phenomenon over 500 feet below sea level, is 80 miles west of Djibouti City. A lake ten times saltier than the ocean, Lake Assal is an ethereal blue and surrounded by picturesque volcanic hills.

It is the lowest body of water in Africa and the second lowest on Earth. Farther into the countryside to the southwest lies Lake Abbe, a large salt lake bisected by the Djibouti-Ethiopia border.

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The Day Forest National Park is a relic of a bygone era when the climate was much more clement.
It is located in the Tadjourah district (in the north of the Republic of Djibouti) at an altitude ranging from 1300 m to 1783 m along the Goda Mountains, where the plateau is fringed by the Goh and Hamboka cliffs. The forest features Mediterranean- and Ethiopian-type tree species, most notably the juniper tree.
In terms of vegetation, the showpiece of the Day Massif is its forest of conifers, which run into the dense mountain forests of Ethiopia, though it retains features distinctive of an arid climate.

This forest contains the majority of the country’s biodiversity. The most common plant is the Juniperus procera, which is associated with other species to varying degrees. Even this, however, is becoming more rare. Droughts, deforestation and overgrazing have all caused progressive erosion of the forest.
One of the effects of this is that junipers are at risk of disappearing because they can no longer regenerate themselves.
The most ubiquitous herbaceous vegetation are Cenchrus pennisetiformis, Chloris pycnothrix and Panicum coloratum. Broad-leafed weeds are also still abundant, and are valuable sources of fodder, but they are nevertheless dwindling, again because of overgrazing. They are being replaced by composites such as Bidens schimperi, which are not palatable to livestock.

The Day Forest has a complex and unique ecosystem that sets it apart from the rest of Djibouti. It seems like a legacy of the Juniperus procera forests of the East African RIFT (Ethiopia) and the Arabic coasts (mountains ranges in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, notably in Assir and Taëf). The most northerly massifs are in Sudan. The last remaining juniper forests in the south, meanwhile, are in Zimbabwe. Juniperus can also be found in the eastern Mediterranean.

Day Forest is some 1.2 million years old. Its surface area has been slashed from around 7,500 ha in the 19th century to 2,300 ha in 1949 and just 900 ha today.