The Central African Republic, as its name suggests, is located in the central part of Africa. It has no coastlines and shares borders with Sudan, South Sudan, the Republic of the Congo, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The area is rich in biodiversity and encompasses four distinct types of ecological regions. These regions are discussed below.
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests
Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests are often more simply referred to as "jungles". They are characterized by a hot, humid climate. The seven different forests that lie within the Central African Republic are located in the mountains, lowlands, swamps, and one stretches across several countries to the Atlantic coast. One example of these forests is the Albertine Rift Montane Forest which include some high peaks and therefore a cooler climate than the lowland forests. Mountain gorillas, various monkey species, elephants, Chapin’s flycatcher birds, and numerous butterfly species make their homes here. The timber industry is a significant threat to the forests throughout this country as well as illegal animal poaching, particularly of elephants.
Tropical and Subtropical Grasslands, Savannas, and Shrublands
Grassland and savanna habitats are more arid than the forest lands, and therefore do not harbor as many trees. These ecological regions are filled with grasses, shrubs, and other herbaceous plants. The lack of trees does not, however, mean there is a lack of flora and fauna. In the Central African Republic, there are three distinct savannas. One of these, the East Sudanian Savanna, covers the northern regions of the country and experiences both a dry and rainy season. Over 1,000 plants are endemic to this savanna, meaning they can only survive here. Some of these include elephant grass, combretum grass, and terminalia trees. As in much of the country, many of the animal species are endangered, including the Maasai lion, African bush elephant, African leopard, and Sudan cheetah. Traditional lifestyles include livestock herding across these grasslands which results in overgrazing. Local populations also degrade plant life by over-harvesting wood and charcoal and illegal rhinoceros poaching has nearly wiped out the species.
In the Central African Republic, two freshwater ecosystems can be found, namely the Sangha River and the Oubangi Congo. The Sangha river connects to the larger Congo river which empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Within the river, various freshwater fish and plants thrive which feed larger land animals such as birds and mammals. This is an important water source for both the Congo river and the animals living in the forests surrounding the river. The Oubangi Congo region creates floodplain and wetland habitats that runs through the southern region of the country. Plants living in these waters are an example of transitioning between Congolian and Nilo Sudanian freshwater plants. Additionally, 5 species of turtles and 3 species of crocodiles rely on these waters for survival. One crocodile, the Osteolaemus tetraspis is endemic to the area.
An important habitat within the Nilo-Sudan freshwater ecoregion is the Lake Chad Basin. This habitat is surrounded by desert and arid lands and does not drain into the ocean. Animals living here include the dama gazelle, red-fronted gazelle, elephants, lions, giraffes, and black-crowned cranes. The entire area holds a human population of approximately 30 million and their modern-day activities have had a detrimental impact on the basin. In order to meet water needs and hydroelectric demands, extensive damming has changed the flow of water emptying into this basin. Increased populations require more water not only for household needs but also for crop irrigation and climate change has resulted in decreased rainfall in an already arid land. Lake Chad and the surrounding area are drying up and shrinking.