located IN west Africa, and a former French colony, Mauritania has a land area of 397,954 sq. mi. (1,030,700 sq. km.), a population of 3,124,000 (2006 est.), and a population density of 7.8 people per sq. mi. (3 people per sq. km.). It is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. The Sahara Desert covers much of the country, with less than 1 percent of the land arable, and 38 percent used for low-intensity meadows and pasture. Some 5 percent of the country is forested, mainly with gum arabic, which is the major cash crop of the country.

Regarding electricity production in the country, some 84.4 percent comes from fossil fuels, with the remainder from hydropower. However, electricity usage in the country is extremely low, and per capita carbon dioxide emissions also remain low, ranging from 1.3 metric tons per person in 1990 to 0.87 metric tons per person by 2003. Overall, 98 percent of the carbon emissions in the country come from liquid fuels, with the remainder from solid fuels and cement manufacturing.

Mauritania has suffered much from deforestation, and there is the likelihood that climate change and global warming will lead to further desertification, leading to a decline in agricultural production. Rising sea levels could lead to the flooding of

Nouadhibou (formerly Port Étienne, the country's former capital). The deliberate stranding of ships off the coast of Nouadhibou has only added to the environmental problems there. The Mauritanian government of Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya took part in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed in Rio de Janeiro in May 1992, ratifying the Vienna Convention two years later. The government accepted the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on July 22, 2005; it took effect on October 20, 2005.

SEE ALSO: Deforestation; Desertification; Framework Convention on Climate Change; Global Warming; Kyoto Protocol; Sea Level, Rising.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. Catherine Belvaude, La Mauritanie (Éditions Karthala, 1989); "Mauritania—Climate and Atmosphere," (cited October 2007); Bermy Sèbe, "Consigned to a Watery Grave," Geographical (v.79/4, 2007).

Justin Corfield Geelong Grammar School, Australia

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