The Oued Moulouya is the largest river to the east of the Middle Atlas and flows 600 km north from Midelt to the Mediterranean. The estuary lies 20 km north of the town of Berkane, only 12 km west of the Algerian border. The site has three components, together comprising 2,700 ha: the Chararba marsh, a freshwater wetland ringed by almost impenetrable dense vegetation; a sandy beach backed by dunes and, in places, a 20-m-high cliff; and the lower 25 km of the course of the Oued Moulouya itself. The luxuriant riparian vegetation consists of Tamarix sp. on the banks and Phragmites communis, Scirpus maritimus, Juncus sp. and Salicornia sp. There are also small plantations of Acacia and Eucalyptus spp. Annual rainfall is 340 mm.
See Box for key species. An important breeding colony of Larus audouinii, numbering 2,700 breeding pairs in 1997, lies just 5 km offshore from the mouth of the estuary on the Islas Chafarinas (IBA ES220), which belong to Spain. The estuary of the Oued Moulouya is thus an important roosting and resting site for this species. Marmaronetta angustirostris breeds in small numbers, but is declining in importance as a winter visitor—250 individuals seen in September 1979 and only 38 in April 1996 are indicative. Numenius tenuirostris was last recorded in 1958. Around 180 species have been recorded from the site, including five species of the Mediterranean North Africa biome (see Table 2).
Non-bird biodiversity: Two restricted-range lizards, Chalcides mauritanicus and C. parallelus, have been recorded.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The principal economic activities are fishing, hunting, agriculture and coastal tourism. Although it currently has no protection, the site has been recognized as a priority 1 SIBE(No. L1). It is threatened by the development of a fish-farm, uncontrolled tourist development along the beach, and hunting and poaching by the local population (particularly of ducks and other waterfowl). The cutting of reedbeds by locals also needs to be regulated since it is believed to be depriving Marmaronetta angustirostris and other species of suitable breeding habitat.
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Embouchure Oued Moulouya. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 23/03/2019.