Africa's 40 000 km of coastline are characterized by
a diversity of ecosystems and an abundance of natural resources. The ecosystems
include mangrove swamps, estuaries, rocky shores, coastal wetlands and coral
reefs; they moderate storm impacts and protect coastal features, recycle
nutrients, absorb and break down wastes, provide human and wildlife habitat
and maintain biodiversity, and present opportunities for recreation, tourism,
transport, trade, and employment.
Africa's coral reefs - an important source
of tourist revenue - are under threat from both coastal development
and from potential global warming
Source: UNEP, David Fleetham, Still Pictures
Coastal and marine resources include fish and shellfish, seaweed, wood and
fibre, and oil and gas. Mangrove forests extend from Mauritania to Angola
on the west coast and from Somalia to South Africa on the east coast,
supporting a diversity of species, many extensively used by local communities.
Commercial fisheries contribute significantly to GDP and employment (particularly
in small islands). Oil and gas reserves, and other mineral deposits, are
also important resources for coastal countries. The growing population
and its demands on these resources, however, is causing widespread degradation
and pollution of marine and coastal habitats and resources. An additional
cause for concern is the threat of sea level rise.