Working for birds in Africa

Geography

Mon, 01/14/2013 - 14:46 -- abc_admin

Côte d'Ivoire has a land area of 322,460 km2 and an estimated population of about 16 million. It is bordered by Liberia and Guinea to the west, Mali and Burkina Faso to the north, Ghana to the east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. French is the official language and is spoken everywhere in the country or nearly so.

The south of the country, including the economic capital Abidjan, has an equatorial climate with four seasons, the "long dry season" (during which the Harmattan winds blow) from December to March-April, the "long wet season" from May to July, the "short dry season" in August-September and the "short wet season" in October-November. When one moves northwards, this gradually changes into a tropical climate with two seasons, a dry one from November to April, and a wet one from May to October. Annual rainfall varies from 2,500 mm in the south-west (around Grabo) to less than 900 mm in the north-east. The two main phytogeographic zones largely reflect the climate.

The forest zone (part of the Guinea-Congo forests) covers the south of the country, ascending to about 8°N in both the west and the east: in the centre it is much narrower. The wet, evergreen forests of the south progressively change into drier semi-deciduous forests along the savanna boundary.

The savanna zone covers roughly the northern half of the country but penetrates as far south as 6°N in the centre. Within it, three sub-zones are recognised: the southern Guinea zone, south of c8°N (i.e. very narrow except in the centre) where Borassus palm is the characteristic tree; the northern Guinea zone north to c9°30 N and the Sudan zone in the extreme north. The natural savannas, consisting of tall grasses growing under a usually rather dense tree cover, are interspersed with small woods and gallery forests along watercourses. On lateritic soils, treeless seasonally flooded areas known as bowé (singular: a bowal) occur locally.

The coastal zone has a wider variety of habitats (most of which are unfortunately severely degraded and replaced with oil-palm, coconut or hevea plantations). A coastal scrub occurs just behind the sandy beaches: though it holds some rare plants, it is not very rich in birds. Several coastal lagoons of varying size (the largest ones in the east of the country) are bordered with Avicennia/Rhizophora mangroves, Raphia swamp-forest, and open marshy areas with floating vegetation. Savannas of the southern guinean type used to occur locally along the coast but they have now been almost completely replaced by plantations. White-sand coastal savannas still occur in the south-east, especially around Assinie; their avifauna has not been studied in detail.

Most of the country is low-lying, with only a few hills above 500 m. However, the west and north-west of the country (south-east to Duékoué) are hilly areas, with several summits above 1000 m and Mt Nimba (on the Guinea/Liberia border) reaching 1,752m. While in the north-west these mountains are usually covered with rocky savanna, further south (in the Man area) they are forested. Sub-montane forest occurs above c1000 m and is dominated by Parinari excelsa; on Mt Nimba, it is replaced by montane grassland above 1600 m.

More details can be found at CIA Factbook.

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