The site lies about 45 km west of the coastal town of Annaba, between the hills which rise just to the east of the town of Skikda and those of the forested Massif de l’Edough near Chetaïbi. It consists of a large alluvial coastal plain, the valley and delta of the Oued El Kebir (this is a different river from the one of the same name which floods other sites: DZ001, DZ004, DZ005 and DZ006) in the El Kala complex to the east). The site lies about 30 km north-west of Lac Fetzara (DZ008). The site is open to the Mediterranean at its north-western end, but coastal dunes hold backwater on the flood-plain, resulting in a series of lakes and marshes, formed in depressions and valleys and extending from a few to several dozen hectares. The marshes overall can extend over 30 km inland and reach nearly 20 km wide, with maximum winter water depths of 2 m. Shallow lakes along the Oued El Kebir can reach 4 m deep. The marshes are brackish near the sea and there are dense stands of vegetation, with Salicornia sp. dominant in some areas. Further upstream dominant species include Phragmites australis, Typha capensis and Carex, Cladium, Juncus and Scirpus spp. There are also large stands of Alnus glutinosa, frequently inundated, with rich ferns in the undergrowth. Human uses of the site include cultivation (especially tomatoes and melons) and grazing.
See Box for key species. Both Aythya nyroca and Oxyura leucocephala were confirmed as breeding birds on the site (on Lac Ben Azzouz) in 1991. It is considered the second most important site for breeding A. nyroca in Algeria (after Lac Tonga, site DZ002), with more than seven pairs and one nest found in 1991. This species also winters on the site (35 birds in 1987). The site is considered the third most important breeding site in Algeria for O. leucocephala (after Lac Tonga and Lac des Oiseaux, site DZ005) with one nest found in 1991. Other species recorded wintering on the site included small numbers of Vanellus vanellus, Calidris minuta and Limosa limosa in 1992; older references state that the site was important for wintering Anser anser, Gallinago gallinago and Vanellus vanellus, but no numbers or years are given.
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The site was designated as a Ramsar Site in 2001 and has been proposed as a Regional Nature Park. Potential threats include unmanaged agricultural expansion and run-off and waste-water from villages upstream. There is said to be very little hunting.