Santarém F, Saarinen J, Brito JC




Desert environments remain largely neglected by the society and their potential to provide benefits to people remain understudied. Hotspots of cultural ecosystem services have been identified in some deserts; yet, knowing which countries need to strengthen efforts to satisfy people’s demand for those services is timely needed. Here, we show the performance of countries within the Earth’s largest warm region – the Sahara-Sahel – in managing cultural ecosystem services. Using the most-advanced decision-support tools and updated databases on biodiversity features and constrains to ecosystem services and on socioeconomic indicators, we identified national priorities for cultural services management. We also identified countries that are missing opportunities for local sustainable development. About 34% of Sahara-Sahel is prioritized for cultural ecosystem services, particularly in the main mountains and waterbodies of the region and along the Western and Eastern coastal limits. Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Senegal, and Tunisia are performing better in managing their cultural services given the availability of such services in their territories. Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, and South Sudan need to urgently improve their ease of mobility, governance, safety, socioeconomic and health systems to foster ecosystem services demand. Cameroon, Eritrea, and Senegal are receiving far less tourists than what their ecosystems can handle and need to improve their local conditions for better marketing international tourists able to economically contribute to sustainable development through ecotourism programs. The approach developed here serves as a framework for conserving the last world wild ecosystems and is replicable to other contexts where regional planning for ecosystem management is compulsory.


Journal: Science of Total Environment

DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.146053