Lagune de Khnifiss

Country/territory: Morocco

IBA criteria met: A1, A4i, A4iii (2001)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 20,000 ha

Groupe de Recherche pour la Protection des Oiseaux au Maroc
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) Threat (pressure) Condition (state) Action (response)
2001 medium not assessed not assessed
For more information about IBA monitoring, please click here

Site description (baseline)
The Lagune de Khnifiss is located on the Atlantic coast between Tarfaya and Tan Tan Plage in the south of the country. It is a long, narrow inlet, several hundred metres wide and extending for 20 km, lying roughly parallel to the coast, but separated from it to the west by a line of dunes. To the east it is bounded by a row of sandstone cliffs c.50 m high, formed from ancient consolidated dunes. The lagoon is open to the sea at its mouth, known as Foum Agouitir, and is therefore tidal. At its furthest extent inland it opens out into a large saltpan, Sebkha Tazra, which is only flooded during the highest tides. The lagoon vegetation consists of saltmarsh and seagrasses while the bordering cliffs support low shrubs of semi-desert. The most important habitats for birds are the mudflats and sandbanks exposed at low tide.

Key biodiversity
See Box for key species. The Lagune de Khnifiss is a vital stop-over site on the Atlantic coastal flyway for migrating Palearctic waders, waterfowl and seabirds, and is considered to be the third most important wintering site for waders in Morocco, after Merja Zerga (site MA010) and the Baie d’Ad-Dakhla (site MA045). It regularly holds more than 20,000 waders, including up to 14,000 Calidris alpina. Seven species are known to exceed IBA threshold levels, including (probably) Larus audouinii (CD). In total more than 170 species have been recorded, of which almost one third breed. The most notable breeding species are Tadorna ferruginea, Phalacrocorax aristotelis, P. carbo, Larus genei and Sterna hirundo; the lagoon is the only known Moroccan breeding site for the last two species.

Non-bird biodiversity: The site holds two of Morocco’s six endemic mammals, Gerbillus occiduus and Crocidura tarfayaensis, as well as one endemic amphibian Bufo brongersmai and one endemic lizard Tarentola boehmi.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Lagune de Khnifiss. Downloaded from on 08/06/2023.