Banc d'Arguin National Park

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
Banc d’Arguin National Park was established in 1976 and protects 40% of the Mauritanian coastline, between Nouakchott and Nouâdhibou, on the northern the Mauritanian coast. The National Park includes shallow open sea (less than 5 m) and seagrass beds, intertidal flats, channels and creeks, as well as coastal desert habitats. Within the park the maximum tidal range is 2.0 m, while the average is between 1.2 and 1.7 m. The total area of intertidal mudflats is some 55,000 ha and there are between 60,000–80,000 ha of seagrass beds. Coastal vegetation includes clumps of mangrove Avicennia africana as well as the grass Spartina maritima and species of Chenopodiaceae. The terrestrial part of the reserve includes areas of Saharan vegetation, principally the tree species Acacia tortilis, Balanites aegyptiaca, Maerua crassifolia and Capparis decidua, and the herbaceous species Panicum turgidum, Cassia italica, Pergularia tomentosa and Heliotropium bacciferum. The dunes on the southern fringe of the park are dominated by Stipagrostis pungens, Cornulaca monacantha, Euphorbia balsamifera and Calligonum comosum. A total of 190 plant species have been recorded in the park. Adjacent to the park lies one of the world’s richest fishing grounds, resulting from upwellings off Râs Nouâdhibou and Râs Timirist and the prevalence of seagrass beds and other productive shallow-water benthic habitats.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 2 for key species. The Banc d’Arguin holds the world’s largest concentrations of non-breeding waders. There are also substantial populations of breeding waterbirds. It is estimated that as many as 2,250,000 migrant waders winter at this site, which is more than 30% of the estimated total population of waders using the East Atlantic Flyway. In addition, Circus macrourus and Falco naumanni are occasionally recorded on passage, while small numbers of Larus audouinii (up to 15 individuals) are regularly recorded. Phoenicopterus minor is an occasional visitor in small numbers.

Non-bird biodiversity: The large and diverse marine fauna includes a number of taxa of conservation concern; four species of sea-turtle (Chelonia mydas (EN), Eretmochelys imbricata (CR), Dermochelys coriacea (EN), Caretta caretta (EN)); the monk seal Monachus monachus (CR); and numerous species of cetacean—Phocoena phocoena (VU), Sousa teuszii (DD), Tursiops truncatus (DD), Grampus griseus (DD), Steno bredanensis (DD), Orcinus orca (LR/cd) and Balaenoptera physalus (EN). The gazelle Gazella dorcas (VU) and the foxes Fennecus zerda (DD) and Vulpes rueppellii (DD) occur in terrestrial parts of the reserve.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Banc d’Arguin was designated a National Park in 1976, a Ramsar Site in 1982 and a World Heritage Site in 1989. The main threat to the park is from fishing. Within the park, fishing is currently mainly limited to artisanal fishing by the Imraguen people whose activities have been an integral part of the park’s ecosystem for several centuries. Outside the park, however, numerous foreign fishing fleets trawl the deeper waters and the park is under pressure to allow increased fishery activities within its limits. Any such increase may, however, threaten both the conservation value of the park and also its economic importance, as the nursery ground for fish currently exploited outside the park. Recent evidence suggests that some fish-stocks are already over-exploitated and there has been some destruction of shallow-water vegetation within the park by the activities of trawlers. A reduction in prey availability is also believed to be a probable reason for the decline of some populations of piscivorous birds. Other threats include pollution from industrial development at Nouâdhibou and the illegal killing of marine turtles.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2018) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Banc d'Arguin National Park. Downloaded from on 20/09/2018.