Wetland complex of Guerbes-Sanhadja plain

- Algeria -

Photo: © Imantis / Wikimedia



The Wetland complex of Guerbes-Sanhadja plain was designated as a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Site) under the Ramsar Convention on 02 February 2001.

More about the site

It is a large coastal plain bordered to the west by the coastal hills and to the east by the coastal forest massif. The altitudes of the area are between 0 and 200 meters; 48.5% of the land has a slope less than or equal to 3% and the rest at 12.5%. The main lithological units are essentially formed by wind and alluvial deposits.The remarkable character of the flora and fauna of this region due to at least three (3) elements: its geomorphological diversity and its role as a bioclimatic crossroads, resulting in a high wealth of biodiversity. The continental dune massif of the Plaine de Guerbes is the water reservoir of about 40 cubic hectometers which triggers a multitude of depressions and swells, forming lakes and garâats (marshes) from a few hectares in area to several tens of hectares.

To the east and south of this massif, the Oued El Kébir and its tributaries, with many meanders (due to the slight slope), feed a series of collections of natural or artificial waters (small dams or hill reservoirs). The contact between dunes and alluvial plains has formed humid forests (alder groves) of up to 180 ha.

Remarkable flora

234 plant species have been identified at the lake level, including 145 taxa dependent on wetlands. This represents more than 14% of the flora of northern Algeria (1,800 species). The Mediterranean species represent 1/3 of the plants observed; the cosmopolitan species represent only 14.4% while the Euro-Mediterranean occupy 9.2%. Among the 234 species listed, 19 are rare and 23 extremely rare.

Remarkable fauna

The Guerbes Plain is the nesting site of two very rare species, the white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala), the Common Duck (Aythya nyroca) and probably a third, the Marbled Teal.  Without forgetting the sultana hen, the crested grebes and castagneux, the water hen and other waterbirds such as paludicultural passerines. The white-headed duck is considered globally threatened and its numbers are declining due to climatic effects and human impacts on the habitats where the species is localized. Many other species visit the lake in winter. Many species of fish inhabit the lake, including eels, barbels and mules, but the marine area has not yet been explored.

The essential human activities around the complex are:

  • Agriculture (market gardening, viticulture, citrus growing, etc);
  • Livestock (beekeeping, sheep, cattle, etc);
  • Scientific research (supervision of students);
  • Traditional practice (medicinal and aromatic plants);
  • Tourism (rest and leisure area);
  • Pedagogy (guided tour of the complex’s wetlands, which represent a rich marine, lake, forest biodiversity, etc).

Among the services, we cite the environment education center (CESP) at Ben Azzouz for children –  this centre contains:

  • An exhibition room that allows the children to know the flora and fauna and the different ecosystems;
  • A practical works room;
  • A reading room, with varied documentation and discovery games for children;
  • A conference and projection room for documentary films and slide shows;
  • An exhibition hall, equipped with panels representing the different ecosystems of the site;
  • Plant nursery.

Many environmental awareness and education activities are organized by Skikda forest conservation at the wetland complex level. Among these activities we mention:

  • Celebration of World Wetlands Day, World Migratory Bird Days, and other days related to the environment;
  • Open days, especially for schoolchildren;
  • Drawing contests;
  • Workshops for making the activities offered by Ramsar;
  • Birdwatching.

To protect the wetland complex, one of the important actions is the fixation of sand littoral dune that threaten the wetlands’ land cover and its sustainability. To minimise the pressure of the local agriculture, the administration of forests of Skikda is helping the farmers to shift more to the local traditional varieties of plants of the region.

Guerbes wetlands are under the pressure of many anthropic challenges such as the growing agriculture sector, a population growth ratio in the area that contains the wetland, and illegal hunting activities; yet the forest sector with the help of environment administration and associations assure lots of sensibilisation work to promote the importance of protection of these fragile ecosystems and their biodiversity. Also, the environmental education that is organised in the CESP centre assures an important role to launch the awareness of the population and their kids about the Ramsar wetland site. The activities of hunting and sports in the lakes of the wetlands is forbidden.

Yes, the management plan has been elaborated by the National directory of forests. This management plan contains all the five phases (Analytic study and descriptive, Diagnostics, Socio-economic diagnostic, Emergency action plan for 2 years, pluriannuel action plan for 5 years).  


Latest updates of these informations: Mars 2020.

Complexe de zones humides de Guerbes Sanhadja Wilaya de Skikda, by Raouf GUECHI
© Raouf GUECHI