An astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) shot this photograph of coastal western Africa where the Gambia, Casamance, and Saloum Rivers flow into the Atlantic Ocean through The Gambia and Senegal. The Republic of The Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa, extending about 320 kilometers (200 miles) inland from the Atlantic and hugging its namesake river. It is bordered by Senegal on all sides, except the coast. (Note: the white border is approximate.)
The Gambia River flows approximately 1,100 kilometers (700 miles) from the Republic of Guinea through The Gambia. The dark green areas along the banks of the rivers and in the estuaries are mostly mangroves. These coastal forests thrive in brackish waters; they provide storm and erosion protection for coastal communities, as well as timber resources. This particular ecoregion of mangroves stretches across much of the West African coast from Senegal to Sierra Leone.
The Gambia River is the major trade and transportation route for the country. It also supports commercial fisheries and the cultivation of rice, millet, and other crops.
Southern Senegal and The Gambia are part of the Sudanian climate zone, which is known for dense woodlands, savannas, and wetlands. These ecosystems are visible to the south of the Gambia River (image left). The region north of the river (right) appears much brighter due to the exposure of bare soil and the dearth of visible vegetation.
This coastal region is densely populated. The capital and port city of Banjul sits on an island where the Gambia River reaches the Atlantic. With an increasing population, the demand for timber for construction has put stress on the mangrove forests.