Ramsar Sites in Algeria
In 1971, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was held in Iran with the objective of establishing an international conservation for the protection of wetlands. Wetland and environmentally sensitive areas designated as “protected” under the Rasmar Convention are shielded from any destruction by man or from overuse and waste.
The definition of “wetlands” according to the Ramsar Convention include marshes, rivers, wet grasslands, swamps, lakes, deltas, peatlands, mangroves, oases, coral reefs, estuaries, near-shore marine areas and tidal flats as well as man-made areas such as reservoirs, saltpans, fishponds and rice paddies. To date, more than 1,651 wetland areas have been protected covering almost 149.7 million hectares world-wide.
Many countries have signed and become part of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Algeria is now rated eighth out of all the countries in terms of the amount of wetland area under protection and first out of all the countries in Northern Africa. Many of the wetland areas in Algeria are considered precious due to the lack of freshwater in the country and because of their high biodiversity which can include over ten ecosystems within one wetland area.
In Algeria, there are now 42 protected wetland sites covering almost 167,000 hectares with the new addition of sixteen more wetland areas that officials and conversationalists considered worthy of protection. Because the scarcity of Algerian wetlands, it is vitally important for environmental, ecological and ecotourism reasons that these wetlands are protected from misuse or destruction.
For example, Chott Aïn El Beïda, a saline depression, is one of the Algerian Ramsar sites that are used regularly by different bird species during the winter period before they migrate home. Indigenous species such as the Black-winged Stilt, the Ruddy Shelduck and the Pied Avocet are some of the bird species that enjoy this environmentally sensitive location in Algeria. In the case of Chott Aïn El Beïda the main threat posed to the bird species mentioned is caused by pollution resulting from improperly treated water.
At another location, Hammam Essoukhna, is a brackish lake that partially evaporates during the summer months and becomes salt-covered during the dry season. Hammam Essoukhna is archaeologically significant because man-made objects dating back to 7,000 BC have been discovered around the lake’s shoreline. Like other environmentally sensitive areas in Algeria, erosion and desertification has become a growing problem in Hammam Essoukhna as well thereby making it necessary to include the areas as a Ramsar designated site.
These are just two of many examples of how the Rasmar Convention has been protecting sensitive ecological systems and preserving vital wetlands in Algeria.