BIOCULTURAL HERITAGE AND NATURE CONSERVATION
Cultural practices and the various belief systems in rural communities in Senegal have contributed significantly in the conservation of forests, biodiversity and landscapes through the establishment and respect of customary laws and norms. The necessity of natural resources for human survival and community wellbeing helped create intricate belief systems, cultural practices and shape powerful instruments for convincing people to protect specific sites and species. The sacred grove at Centre Fagaru is as such a living testimony. Despite its small size, the sacred grove contains an unexpectedly high fraction of the indigenous flora with over 130 plant species. The forest offers refuge to a variety of small mammals and reptiles and a wide variety of birds.
However, weakening of traditionally inherited conservation practices, persistent poverty in rural areas, modernity and cultural mutations pose a real threat to the preservation of sacred groves and contribute to the marginalization and the loss of traditional ecological knowledge.
Therefore, a conservation covenant protects Centre Fagaru from future development not compatible with the natural and cultural heritage that contributed to the preservation of the sacred grove. Thus, valuing the biocultural heritage of the Saloum River Delta is the main concern at Centre Fagaru and priority conservation issues include site protection, in situ conservation of endangered species and forest landscape restoration.
It is widely acknowledged that forest remnants can play a critical role in natural forest recovery by increasing seed dispersal and species diversity. However, it is becoming increasingly necessary to understand how species surviving in small forest remnants are adapting to changes in the environment. In this sense, the indigenous forest remnant at Centre Fagaru is of valuable importance for studies focusing on species resilience and looking at ways to connect it with forest remnants as to provide multifunctional forest landscapes that deliver a variety of ecological goods and services.