Benin lies between the Niger River in the north and the coastal plain in the south. The low-lying southern plateaus offer a Guinean forest-savannah landscape. The Atacora chain, which stretches along the north-western border and culminates at Mount Sokbaro (658 m), consists mainly of savannah and semi-arid mountains. Southern Benin has an equatorial climate with four seasons, two wet and two dry, while the north alternates only between one rainy and one dry season.
In the north of Benin, the Pendjari National Park and the “W” Regional Park, which extends into Burkina Faso and Niger, are two of the most protected and biodiverse semi-arid grassland ecosystems in West Africa. The wildlife of the “W” includes elephants, leopards, lions, antelopes, monkeys, crocodiles and buffalo, as well as many species of snakes and birds. The original rainforest, which covered most of the south of the country, has been largely cleared. In its place, numerous oil palms and roasted trees have been planted and food crops are grown. The few remaining areas of rainforest are filled with tropical species.
The diversity of fauna and flora, which is more concentrated in protected areas, is still threatened by the increase in wildfires, extensive livestock farming, overgrazing, the use of pesticides, poaching, and agricultural expansion. Consequently, the main anthropogenic pressures affecting biodiversity in Benin are habitat loss, unsustainable use, overexploitation of resources, and pollution. These pressures are aggravated by climate change and soil degradation, which make flooding episodes near rivers more recurrent, while coastal erosion constitutes a heavy loss for the economy. Desertification in the northern part is another major threat to the livelihoods of people who have no other options.