Mauritania is situated at the crossroads of the Maghreb region and sub-Saharan Africa. With roughly four-fifths of its land area within the Sahara Desert (less than 200 mm mean annual rainfall), the population of this vast and sparsely populated country is mostly concentrated in the slightly less arid south, as well as in the Atlantic port cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. Mauritania’s historically nomadic population has seen a trend toward sedentarization and urbanization since independence in 1960, especially in response to increasingly dry climatic conditions. Mauritania is susceptible to periodic droughts and hot, dry dust- and sand-laden harmattan winds, which threaten the small fraction of its land surface that is arable. Some irrigation potential has been developed in the Senegal River basin to increase food security in the face of vulnerability to drought. The country’s wealth lies in its extensive mineral deposits and rich fishing grounds in the Atlantic Ocean. Key biological resources include extensive seasonal wetlands in the southeast of Mauritania as well as coastal wetlands on the Atlantic shore. These wetlands stand out as hotspots of biodiversity against the vast stretch of sand dunes and rock formations of the Sahara and the sparsely vegetated Sahel zone, where freshwater is scarce. They constitute critically important breeding, transit and wintering grounds for millions of migratory birds.