Marais de la Macta: Wetlands of International Importance

Located primarily in the wilaya of Mascara, and partly in Oran and Mostaghanem, Macta is designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International, and the marshlands of Macta (Marais de la Macta) are listed as Wetlands of International Importance by Ramsar. The triangular-shaped area has three major oueds flowing into it from the south, two of which flow throughout the year, ensuring that the marshlands never dry up. This is a major advantage for resident birds and well as for migrant birds stopping over at various times of the year. Macta’s combination of open water, marshes, steppes and salt-marshes is unusual in North Africa and provides habitats for a wide range of wildlife.

A dune system to the north of Macta separates the flood-plain from the sea, with the River La Macta being the only link between the two. This region of Macta can experience high salinity levels as water levels drop, with some parts being dry between July and October. Reeds and bulrushes are typical vegetation in the area.

Among the many birds that winter at Macta is the Marbled Teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris) which is listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN, primarily due to habitat loss. Classed as diving ducks, Marbled Teals are a protected species under the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA). Their name is descriptive of their appearance, as Marbled Teals are a pale sandy-brown color with off-white blotches, resembling the patterns occurring in marble stone. They have dark eye patches and long slender beaks. Marbled Teals tend to gather in fairly large flocks and are not particularly territorial as they build their nests close to one another in reed beds and along shorelines.

Marais de la Macta is the only significant wetland along the coastal region of Algeria considered to be of international importance, although there are wetlands in the north-east between Touggourt and Constantine that offering seasonal habitats for migrating waterfowl, but they are dependent on winter rainfall for favorable conditions.