Return to : Main Page / The Environment
Prior to the arrival of man, the island was covered with dense forests consisting mainly of tall and slow growing trees. On the low lying lands along the coast, Palm savannah was to be found. At low altitudes there were Diospyros/Elaeodendron forests and on the plateau, forests of Sapotaceae.
All of the Palm savannah disappeared very early on with the arrival and subsequent settlement of man early in the 17th century. That was very quickly followed by the disappearance of the Diospyros/Elaeodendron forests, cut down by the French for ship building and houses. Later on the British cut down large tracts of Sapotaceae forests to make way for habitation and cultivated fields.
The end result is that today less than 1% of the area of Mauritius
is now covered with native vegetation, exotics having invaded
much of the forests.
The forest cover of Mauritius amounts to only 56,880 hectares, which barely represents 30% of the total surface area of the island. That surface cover is the absolute minimum required. Two thirds of this cover are privately owned forests (34 540 hectares), the remainder being state land forests.
6540 hectares of private forests are protected by law as mountain or river reserves and 4585 hectares of state forests are protected as nature or islets reserves.
A further 12000 hectares are forest plantations, 79% of which
is planted with pine or other soft woods.(1994)
A classification of the Forest Land (1991)
|Area (Hectares)||Total Area (Hectares)|
|(b) Nature Reserves
|(c ) Unplantable, protective or to be protected||4710||4710|
|TOTAL STATE FORESTS||21211|
|TOTAL "PAS GEOMETRIQUES"||652|
|(b)Forest Lands, including scrub and grazing lands||28000|
|TOTAL PRIVATE FOREST||34540|
Source: State of The Environment Report 1991
Forests are of utmost importance for soil conservation, the protection
of water catchment areas and the conservation of fauna and flora.
In Mauritius, the main economic use of forests is for the production
of timber, poles and fuel wood and deer ranching (note that deer
ranching can have detrimental effects on the forest when animals
destroy young plants and in doing so prevent regeneration). The
domestic production of timber meets only 30% of the local demand.
The National Physical Development Plan estimates that about a
quarter of the population relies on wood and wood charcoal as
domestic fuel. This amount of wood is said to represent 80,000
tonnes of petroleum products.
River reserves are defined as being strips of privately owned land that borders both sides of a water course. Water courses are classified into three categories:
The width of river reserves in case of a river are 50 feet, for a rivulet 25 feet and for a feeder 10 feet. The purpose of river reserves is to provide a permanent tree cover along side water courses. This permanent tree cover is necessary to prevent soil erosion especially during the rainy season. The approximate area of river reserves is over 2000 hectares.
Interestingly enough, the legal protection of river reserves dates
form 1769, when the French authorities of the time passed the
first legislation needed to protect the tree cover of river reserves
( Article VI of "Reglement Economiques" of 1769).
In 1993 was proclaimed the Black River Gorges Nature Park. The first of its kind in Mauritius.
Click here for a map of nature
reserves in Mauritius.
Protected areas in Mauritius
|Name||Areas in Hectares|
|Black River National Park||6574|
|Corps De Garde||90|
|Ile Aux Serpents||31.66|
|Ile Aux Aigrettes||24.69|
|Mondrain Nature Reserve||5|
|Sir Emile Series Nature Reserve||8|
(1) Government Of Mauritius, White Paper For A National Conservation Strategy, July 1985
(2) Government Of Mauritius, State Of The Environment Report 1991
(3) Government Of Mauritius, National Physical Development Plan,
Volume 1: Strategies And Policies, 1995
Last Update: Wednesday, February 25, 1998