Natural Reserve of Lake Réghaïa
- Algeria -
© Abderrahim Belakri, Wikimedia
The Lake and marsh of Réghaïa was designated as a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Site) under the Ramsar Convention on 6 April 2003.
The coastal marsh of Réghaïa, long considered as a site of international importance, is the last vestige of old land crop of Mitidja. It faces directly the Mediterranean Sea, thus allowing it to play a role as a major high quality stop for migratory birds after crossing the Mediterranean before they continue to the Sahara. Its interest is basically in its geographic isolation and its position halfway between the classic migratory routes of Gibraltar and the Sicilo-Tunisian Strait. It is also the only wetland in the area that escaped from the drainage operations which, during the colonial period, caused the disappearance of the almost all lakes of the Mitidja Plain, notably Lake Halloula and the small marshes of the Ressauta.
The site hosts four rare species, two of them are classified vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List: Aythyanyroca and Marmaronetta angustirostris, while a third, Oxyura leucocephala, is classified on the list of species threatened with extinction. The site is home to plant and animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of North Africa and the Mediterranean:
The coastal marsh of Réghaïa has a non-negligible flora richness estimated at a minimum of 289 listed plant species, equivalent to 14% of the flora of northern Algeria. The distribution of this flora is conditioned by the hydromorphy and halomorphy of the soil which generates the following spatial stratification:
- Hygrophilic groups, linked to the presence of water, develop in green bands in the marshy areas downstream, upstream, and on the east shore of the lake. They are represented by Phragmitescommunis, Typha latifolia, Scirpus lactustris, Iris pseudacorus, etc. This vegetation serves as a refuge and/or nesting area for birds.
- The transition zone located between the lake and the dune cordon is where the remains of the lagoon marsh consist of phragmites with Phragmitescommunis mixed with Tamarix africana and Typha latifolia mallets invaded by a halophilic group at Plantago coronopus.
- The sloping grounds surrounding the lake are occupied by a large maquis, a few thickets of Eucalyptus camaldulensisand wasteland. The floristic procession of this maquis is mainly composed of Pistacia lentiscus and Olea europaea as well as Hedera helix, Smilax aspera and Asparagus acutifolius.
The lake of Réghaïa remains in the region the only witness and vestige of the various biogeographical characters of the old coastal wetlands of the Plain of Mitidja: the Mediterranean species remain the most abundant with approximately 50% of the listed species due to the stability of the Mediterranean type climate. European species represent only 14% of the plants observed, whereas cosmopolitans occupy 12%.
Finally, it is worth noting the presence of three species endemic to North Africa: Arenaria cerastioides, Cyclamen africanum and Scilla lingulata as well as a rare species at the level of the coast, Abutilon theophrasti.
The plant screen made up of the maquis and the reedbed provides protection for the avifauna against winds, terrestrial predators, and disturbances linked mainly to humans and their livestock. It increases the chances of nesting for birds.
Despite its small size, the Réghaïa lake has revealed an unexpected richness and diversity not only in wintering migratory birds but also in rare nesters.
The wetland is home to more than 210 species of birds including 82 species of water birds, among which four species are rare; two of them are classified as Vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List: Aythya nyroca and Marmaronetta angustirostris, while Oxyura leucocephala is endangered there, and 55 species are protected by national regulations. A colony of Leukophelian Gull Larus michahellis is established throughout the year on Agueli Island. The Little Tern Sterna albifrons, although showing signs of nesting on the dune, is dissuaded by the too frequent disturbances caused by the many summer visitors.
At the level of the maquis, species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians are noted: Jackal Canis aureus, Genette Genetta genetta, Mongoose Herpestes ichneumon, Wildboar Sus scorfa, Striped rat Lemniscomys barbarus, Brown hare Lepus capensis, weasel, colonized by groups to Juncus sp. with the presence of Tamarix africana. We also note the Algerian hedgehog Erinaceus algirus, the porcupine Hystris cristata, the fox Rueppelli vulpes, the clammy turtle Clemmys leprosa, the tarrant de mauritanie Gecko sp., the green lizard Lacerta viridis, the horseshoe snake Colubra sp., the ringed snake Natrix natrix , the common chameleon Chamaeleon vulgaris, etc.
The geographical position of Réghaïa, halfway between the wetlands of Orania and El Kala facing the Camargue, offers a real comparative interest in the context of knowledge of migrations and wintering of birds in the West of the Mediterranean Sea.
The essential human activities around the center 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); and
- Pedagogy (marine, lake, forest biodiversity, etc.)
Monuments and vestiges
According to residents of the Réghaïa lake wetland, Roman remains are found near the lake not far from the Cohade farm. This farm has long been considered a holy place where women go to meditate and light a candle. Not far from the farm is an unidentified tomb called “Kbar-erroumia’’, “tomb of the Christian”.
Specific and local known practices
Due to the cosmopolitan nature of the region and the different origins of the residents, we cannot speak of specificities and local practices proper. The main specificity is the couscous with herbs, vegetables, meat, etc., and traditional bread cooked over a wood fire (a traditional method).
Uses of the wetland
- Collection of medicinal and aromatic plants which are used for domestic consumption;
- The use of firewood;
- Use of reeds in the construction of orchard fences, houses, roofs, etc.;
- Cultivation of small family vegetable gardens;
- Small breeding for family use.
The administration of the Réghaïa lake center offers many services to visitors, among which are the environmental education center for children and adults, which contains:
- An exhibition room: allows the children to learn the flora and fauna and the different ecosystems and habitats;
- A workshop room: with a capacity of 20 people where the children can make herbariums, identification of species, etc.;
- A library room for children, with various documentation and discovery games;
- A conference room for documentary films and slide shows, with a capacity of 40 people;
- An educational nursery for children;
- An exhibition hall: equipped with panels representing the different ecosystems of the site;
- A library: with a capacity of 30 people, equipped with scientific works and end-of-study theses carried out at the Réghaïa lake;
- A study room: with a capacity of 30 people;
- Also other services are offered for visitors such as:
- Accommodation chalet for the reception of students and researchers;
- Communication tools (leaflets, brochures);
- Free entry to the center;
- Bird watching stations;
- A playground;
- Sanitary block (toilet, etc.);
Many environmental awareness and educational activities are organized by the Réghaïa lake center at its CESP, which is located near Lake Réghaïa – among these activities we can cite:
- Celebration of World Wetlands Day, World Migratory Bird Days, and other days related to the environment;
- Open days for schoolchildren;
- Drawing contests;
- Animation with clowns;
- Volleyball competition;
- Workshops for making the activities offered by Ramsar;
- Observations of lake waterbirds.
- Welcoming children and associations at the CESP level;
- Guide tours “nature discovery”
- Management of water withdrawal and exploitation;
- Waste regulation and management;
- Sampling controls and application of anti-poaching measures;
- Management of recreational activities;
- Programming of communication, education, awareness and scientific research activities.
With a view to sustainably preserving the wetland of Réghaïa lake, and ensuring the sustainability of the site classified as Ramsar Site of International Importance, urgent actions must be implemented to deal with perceptible pressures, while maintaining human activities that guarantee a “conservation-development” duality. Among the most relevant
- Update of the Réghaïa wetland management plan in which an emergency action plan should be proposed, concerning in particular:
- Water purification;
- Rehabilitation of the plant cover;
- Rational management of water pumping;
- Regulation of summer visitors’ flow;
- Reintroduction of indigenous species;
- Classification of the Réghaïa wetland as a natural reserve, which will make it possible to strengthen the protection of the wetland by establishing a national legal framework.
The Réghaïa Lake has a management plan validated since 2005, partially implemented during the 2008-2012 period. The development of a 2nd management plan is soon to be planned with the updating of its operational action plan.
Latest updates of these informations: Mars 2020