The site lies in the far south-east of the country, in the Sahara desert, less than 200 km from the border with Libya (to the east) and c.500 km north-east of Parc National de l’Ahaggar (site DZ029). The Tassili N’Ajjer consists of a high limestone plateau outlier to the north-east of the A’Haggar Massif (see site DZ029), which reaches a maximum height of 2,158 m at Mount Afao. The climate is typical of desert and mountain with large diurnal temperature ranges. Maximum temperatures do not usually exceed 32°C and do not usually drop below freezing, although frosts and snow have been recorded from higher ground. The mountain slopes drain principally to the north-east through deep gorges running down to the plain. There are many oueds and over 300 permanent, and many temporary, ponds or gueltas on the Tassili N’Ajjer plateau, with flowing water and waterfalls following rain, and springs (including a hot spring) in some areas. The karstic valley of the Oued Iherir lies at 1,100 to 1,400 m and has 45 permanent gueltas, intermittent streams, marshes, lakes and freshwater springs. Rainfall is very variable, with the annual mean probably c.25 mm, but reaching 150 mm locally in some years. Salinity in the gueltas varies with rainfall and the degree of flushing.There is a variety of emergent and submerged vegetation in the various water-bodies; the lake and many watercourses are fringed with beds of Typha capensis and Phragmites australis and filamentous green algae are found at the edges of many of the gueltas. Tree species found along the oueds include abundant Nerium oleander and Tamarix gallica, with Acacia nilotica, Hyphaene thebaica, Olea laperrinii and planted Phoenix dactylifera in the valleys. There is a resident human population in the valleys, estimated at several thousand people, but probably fluctuating greatly. Activities include cultivation of palms, figs and vegetables on terraces; grazing of camels, goats and sheep; fishing in the gueltas; collection of Typha for thatching and mat-making and some tourism. The latter is based particularly on the cave paintings on the valley walls, evidence of some of the earliest inhabitants of the Sahara. There are visitor facilities and entrance fees are charged: 8,200 people visited the Park in 1990. Tourism diminished drastically between 1992 and 2000, but is now said to be recovering.
See Box and Table 2 for key species. There are records of passage Crex crex, said to be abundant during autumn passage in the 1960s, but with few recent records from anywhere in Algeria. This is one of only two IBAs in Algeria (together with Parc National de l’Ahaggar, site DZ029) from which the biome-restricted Pterocles lichtensteinii and Alaemon alaudipes are recorded.
Non-bird biodiversity: The site has a diverse invertebrate fauna including relict species and representatives of both Afrotropical and Palearctic realms. There are also fish species from both these realms (including Barbus spp., Clarias spp. and Tilapia sp.), a number of amphibians have been recorded and Crocodylus niloticus (now extinct on the site) occurred until at least 1924. Mammals include Felis chaus and F. margarita.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The whole area is a National Park and the valley of the Oued Iherir was designated as a Ramsar Site (La Vallée d’Iherir) in 2001. This smaller area is also designated as a ‘nature park’, however this latter designation only affords protection to the frescoes on the plateau, not the fauna and flora. Tourism is at a very low level and probably causes little disturbance. Wells and irrigation channels dug in the Oued Tadjeradjeri system may have some effect on hydrology, but have fallen into disuse.
BirdLife International (2017) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Parc National du Tassili N'Ajjer. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 20/10/2017.