Three new Ramsar sites in Algeria for World Environment Day

The Government of Algeria designated three new Wetlands of International Importance on the occasion of World Environment Day. With these new designations the Algerian Government renews its commitment to ensure the conservation and wise use of these Ramsar Sites so as to maintain the full range of benefits that the wetland can provide for people (e.g., livelihoods, health, culture) and the environment (e.g., in supporting biodiversity).

Designation of these areas as a Wetland of International Importance has been supported by WWF International.

Oum Lâagareb Ramsar Site (729 ha; 36°49’N 08°13’E) is one of the largest remaining floodplain peatlands in the region, and supports plant communities which are particularly rare in Algeria, notably of Ash Fraxinus angustifolia and Alder Alnus glutinosa trees, and is an important locality also for Bay Laurel Laurus nobilis. Vegetation richness is influenced by the wetlands physic-chemical characteristics of medium acidity, richness of organic matter and water flows. The wetlands supports a range of animal species, notably Otter Lutra lutra (extremely rare in the area), the Endangered Poiret’s Newt Pleurodeles poireti, found only in north-East Algeria, and European Pond Turtle Emys orbicularis, and various waterbirds use the forested areas. The site is threatened by excessive water-pumping by the local community for irrigation.

Lac du barrage de Boughezoul (9,058 ha; 35°44’N 02°47’E)  is the largest artificial lake (barrage) on the Hauts Plateaux, located 90km north of the town of Médéa, and on the northern edge of the Sahara Desert. This Ramsar Site provides a key stop-over area for birds migrating across the Sahara. Up to 60% of the wetland is the water storage area, which fluctuates seasonally, and the site also includes permanent as well as seasonal rivers, streams and freshwater marshes. Internationally important numbers of migrant and wintering waterbirds use the permanent and seasonal wetlands, including two globally threatened species: Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris and White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala).

Ile de Rachgoun Ramsar Site (66 ha; 35°19’N 01°28’W). The island of Rachgoun is a Mediterranean volcanic island 4 km off the Algerian coast and with a semi-arid climate. It is unique in Algeria for supporting the Critically Endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal Monachus monachus. The seas surrounding the island are used by endangered whale species: Sperm Whale Physeter macrocephalus, Fin Whale Balaenoptera physalus and the most widely distributed of the beaked whales, Cuvier’s Beaked Whale Ziphius cavirostris. Loggerhead Caretta caretta and Leatherback Dermochelys coriacea Turtles, respectively Endangered and Critically Endangered, also use the island. The island is an important source of food, spawning ground and nursery for fishes, crustaceans and molluscs, and isis used by a variety of breeding seabirds, including Audouin’s Gull Larus audouinii and Cory’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea, and other migratory waterbirds. The fragile ecosystem of the island and its vulnerability to multiple human interventions has led to degradations that continue to alter the ecology of the site. The Island of Rachgoun is under the management of the ‘Institut des sciences de la mer et de l’aménagement du littoral (ISMAL)’.

Algeria now has 50 sites on the Ramsar List, totaling 2,991,013 hectares.

Source of this article: Ramsar Convention on Wetlands