The site is a huge proposed National Park in the former Western Sahara, split into two distinct parts. The coastal sector, called Aguerguer or the Côte des Phoques, covers a 180-km stretch of coastline from south of Sebkhat Lamhar Touil to the Mauritanian frontier, bordered inland by the road between Dakhla and Lagouira and extending 12 nautical miles out to sea (and thus covering more than 360,000 ha of coastal waters and open sea). An isolated part of the Presqu’île du Cap Blanc, south of the Mauritanian town of Nouadhibou, is also included in this sector. Habitats include high coastal cliffs and caves, and weathered sandstone buttes and ravines. Vegetation includes salt-tolerant coastal species such as Suaeda spp., Atriplex spp. and Spartina maritima.The much larger inland desert sector, called Safia, lies west of the town of Awsserd. It covers the mountainous massifs of Grarat Ouchfegt in the north and Adrar Souttouf in the south, together with the expanses of flat reg overlaid with barkhan sand-dunes lying between the two massifs. These barkhan dunes are highly mobile and often very tall. Vegetation in the sector is sparse, consisting primarily of the woody species Acacia raddiana, Maerua crassifolia and Capparisdecidua with associated scrub, growing along wadi beds and drainage lines. Annual rainfall may be less than 40 mm, and periods of complete drought of several years are not uncommon.
See Box and Table 2 for key species. A total of 176 species have been recorded from the two sectors of the proposed National Park, including six species of the Mediterranean North Africa biome (see Table 2). Altogether, 38 species are known to breed. The Presqu’île du Cap Blanc is an important migration staging-post for waders and seabirds on their way to and from the Banc d’Arguin in Mauritania. In addition to the four waterbird species known to occur in numbers exceeding IBA thresholds, numbers of Sterna maxima have approached the IBA threshold (without exceeding it).
Non-bird biodiversity: The Aguerguer region is one of the last strongholds of the seal Monachus monachus (CR). Fifteen other marine mammals, all whales and dolphins, many of which are globally threatened, have been recorded. A large population of the ungulate Gazella dorcas (LR/nt) survives, protected by the difficult terrain. The Safia sector of the park also harbours Gazella dorcas (LR/nt) and Ammotragus lervia (VU).
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The area is currently unprotected, but merits urgent gazettement and implementation of an integrated management plan. Development of a National Park will be hampered by the fact that much of the region is still troubled by political insecurity, and the presence of fields of landmines. Other threats include hunting of large mammals and bustards (Otididae) by locals and Middle Eastern hunting parties, and tourist disturbance along the coast. The Safia sector of the park is a potential reintroduction site for captive-bred individuals of the ungulates Addax nasomaculatus (CR), Oryx dammah (CR) and Gazella dama (EN).