Conservation of Morocco’s Wetlands – Part Two
Located on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, the Loukkos wetlands include a variety of habitats, such as shallow marine waters, estuarine waters, freshwater swamps, salt steppes and flood plains. The area around the Loukkos wetlands is primarily dedicated to agriculture, with some drained areas being used as rice paddies. Other activities in the area include livestock farming, production of salt and tourism. Redirecting of water flow away from the wetlands to use as irrigation for crops is one of the challenges facing Loukkos, as well as dredging of wetland areas for agriculture. The Loukkos wetland complex is home to a number of vulnerable bird species including the Marbled Teal, Purple Heron, Red-crested Pochard, Marsh Owl and Ferruginous Duck.
(Link to Conservation of Morocco’s Wetlands – Part One)
Tahaddart is a complex of varied wetland habitats, including both brackish and freshwater pools and marshes, sand dunes and sub-tidal aquatic beds. The area is a vital stopover point for migratory birds, such as the Common Crane and Greater Flamingo, crossing the Strait of Gibraltar on their way to and from Europe. Tahaddart is thought to be the only site on the African continent that is still home to the Great Bustard, listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature. The area has fertile soil brought downstream by rivers flowing into the wetlands, but upstream dams have started to restrict this flow. Other challenges facing Tahaddart are removal of sand for construction, as well as the encroachment of human settlements and livestock.
At the mouth of the River Draa is a wetland site stretching through bush-covered dunes, through a gorge to the Atlantic Ocean. Many migratory bird species take refuge in the area’s vegetation, including the Marbled Teal, North African Cormorant and flamingoes. There are a number of relict and endemic species in the wetlands including reptile, fish, (most notably the redbelly tilapia Tilapia zillii), an amphibian (Bufo brongersmai) and two mammals, being the Occidental gerbil and Tarfaya shrew. Challenges facing the conservation of this wetland site include illegal hunting, litter from fishing camps, and 4×4 vehicles riding roughshod over the delicate environment.
Recognition and promotion as a Ramsar sites – wetlands of international importance – may raise awareness for the need of conservation in these ecologically diverse regions of Morocco.