The 33,800 ha Parc National de Souss–Massa was created in 1991. Lying between Agadir to the north and Sidi Ifni to the south, this Atlantic coastal site includes a variety of habitats, ranging from Argania spinosa woodland, cultivated fields, Retama and Euphorbia steppe, to dunes, cliffs, sandy beaches and wetlands. It encompasses the estuaries of the Oued Souss (the northern limit of the park) and Oued Massa. A region of c.30,000 ha near Aglou, south of the park, is also included in the site because it is used periodically as a feeding area by Geronticus eremita (see below). This area comprises sheep-grazed littoral steppe approximately 1–2 km wide between the foothills of the Anti-Atlas and the sea. The soils are mainly sandy, with some rocky and stony patches, and most of the area consists of small, intermittently cultivated fields. There is a considerable settled human population in and around the park and Aglou; activities include agriculture, livestock-rearing, fishing (both commercial and leisure) and tourism.
See Box and Table 2 for key species. Over 100 species have been recorded from the Parc National de Souss–Massa. The overwhelming importance of the site is due to it harbouring three of the four known Moroccan breeding colonies of Geronticus eremita. The colonies are located on coastal cliffs within the National Park and numbered 33 breeding pairs in 2000, or 52% of the Moroccan and world population. There are several roost-sites, and most of the coastal steppes and fallow fields are used as feeding areas at some time of the year. Indeed, the coastal belt to the south of the park has been included because it is also used by the birds as a feeding area—albeit less frequently and generally outside the breeding season. Small numbers of the globally threatened Marmaronetta angustirostris also breed on Oued Massa—70 were recorded in May 1999. Of the 13 species of the Mediterranean North Africa biome that occur, nine breed and two are regular visitors (Falco eleonorae and Sylvia cantillans—the latter on migration), while Eremophila bilopha is occasional and Rhamphocoris clotbey has been recorded once. In addition, Sylvia deserticola may occur. Five species of the Sahara–Sindian biome have also been recorded (Table 2). The site is the only known Moroccan breeding site for Plegadis falcinellus (12–14 pairs, and up to 65 birds recorded). The Parc National de Souss Massa plays host to numerous migrant birds, both on passage and during the winter. The two most important areas for migrants, primarily waders and gulls, are the estuaries of the Oued Souss and Oued Massa. Larus audouinii (wintering) and Platalea leucorodia have reached IBA numerical thresholds on occasion. Up to several hundred Phoenicopterus ruber are regularly found on passage at Oued Souss and are an attraction to tourists from the nearby resort of Agadir.
Non-bird biodiversity: Captive-breeding programmes for the ungulates Oryx dammah (CR), Addax nasomaculatus (EN), Gazella dama (EN) and Gazella dorcas (LR/nt) are under way in large enclosures within the park. Struthio camelus is also being reared. Releases are planned in other protected areas in more arid zones further to the south, but would not be feasible in the immediate area.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The Parc National de Souss–Massa is a priority 1 SIBE (No. L29). It benefits from effective administration and management by AEFCS, but is threatened by the increasing pressures of the growing human population and activities both within and outside its boundaries. A large-scale hotel development planned for the coast at Tifnit, that includes important feeding areas of Geronticus eremita, has apparently been suspended for the moment, but remains a real threat. However, in the unprotected region of Aglou the construction of summer chalets is increasing, spreading south from Sidi Moussa and Aglou. Visitor facilities (nature trail at Oued Souss, visitor centre at Oued Massa) have been constructed to cater for the growing number of tourists. The population of Geronticus eremita has been the subject of a long-term monitoring programme by the park authorities and RSPB/BirdLife International, and the colonies are wardened during the breeding season. Despite an unexplained mortality incident in May 1996, this population has remained approximately stable for over 20 years. A management plan aimed at the rehabilitation and sustainable management of the park’s ecosystems and habitats is being implemented, and the protection and conservation of Geronticus eremita occupies a high priority among its management objectives.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Parc National de Souss-Massa and Aglou. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 23/01/2021.