Sybrand van Beijma, Ursula Gessner, Stefan Dech
Applied Geography


The Niger Delta, the largest river delta on the African continent, is one of the most densely populated river deltas globally and hosts the world’s third largest mangrove forest. It is a major biodiversity hot spot of our planet. At the same time the delta is home to Africa’s largest oil reserves and responsible for a skyrocketing GDP development of Nigeria since the 1970s. Nigeria ranks 13th among all oil producing countries, but oil exploitation also brought with it severe environmental degradation, leading to the delta’s nomination for a place on the top 10 list of the “World’s Worst Polluted Places Report” in 2013. Despite the outstanding importance of the region for Nigeria, Africa, and the international community most studies published focus mainly on topics of geology, geochemistry, and environmental toxicology. Studies employing earth observation satellite data to assess Niger Delta dynamics are rare. This paper aims at contributing to an overview of Niger Delta geography and environmental threats and challenges, as well as to an understanding of Niger Delta land surface dynamics from 1986 to 2013. Covering the complete delta, we present results of land cover change analyses, results of an assessment of coastline dynamics, as well as the manifestation of oil exploitation activity as expressed via oil access canal dredging and gas flaring, monitored within the 27 year time span investigated.