Natural forest formations
Forest cover map
Djibouti forms part of the African Rift Valley, with a very uneven volcanic landscape, rising to over 1 700 m and encompassing high mountains (with an annual rainfall of 350 mm), enclosed depressions, high plateaux, and narrow, boxed-in plains. Its soils are almost entirely of volcanic origin: two thirds of the country has generally deep basaltic soil, while the higher land is gravelly, and the only sedimentary zone is a narrow coastal plain in the east (with an annual rainfall of 100-150 mm). It has a dry climate, although the eastern half is moister, benefitting from the effects of the sea during the cool season.
The different types of forest are determined chiefly by climatic conditions. Rainfall depends primarily on altitude and the exposure of the slope, so that altitude is also an important factor in the distribution of vegetation. Soil does not play a decisive role, whereas human activity is a determining factor in the different types of woody vegetation (grazing, firewood, gathering). Most of Djibouti's forests have been subjected to exploitation, especially for grazing and firewood, for a very long time, and the process of desertification has already set in in some regions, especially in the southwest.
The country's vegetation is on the whole very poor, although the Goda and Mabla mountain massifs enjoy a more humid climate (as a result of sea winds from the east) and thus contain relics of dry closed forests with a rich and varied flora. Elsewhere, the vegetation is made up primarily of thorny bushland, mixed tree and shrub savannah and Acacia shrub steppes. Dry, barren regions predominate, with occasional grasslands consisting of tall grasses in the cool season. Vegetation is confined to wadi beds, which are carpeted with thorn bushes, acacias ( Acacia spp.), tamarisk (Tamarix) and jujube (Ziziphus spp.). There are also some mangroves in the northwest of the country. The presence of the sea has resulted in the development of a special type of vegetation made up of grass and bush steppes along the coastal fringe.
Djibouti's flora is thus typical of arid regions, especially in the low areas in the west (the continental façade), containing Sahelo-Saharan species, more Mediterranean-type species, species endemic to the Somali-Masai zone, etc. Over 600 species have so far been recorded. A common feature throughout Djibouti is the presence of numerous salt-loving species, some of which are found at a wide range of altitudes; for example, Acacia spirocarpa is found up to 1 200 m, A. seyal between 700 and 1 600 m, and A. mellifera up to 1 400 m.
The above map is an extract from the Global Forest Cover map produced as part of FRA 2000. Please refer to FRA Working Paper 19 for a background to the production of the map.
The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.
Map source: Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000, base map: ESRI