The site is a 50,000 ha proposed Natural Park stretching for some 40 km between the towns of Ifrane and Azrou in the west central Middle Atlas. The area is part of the drainage basin of the Oued Sebou. Although lying between 1,225 and 2,103 m, the relief is rather gentle, in contrast to the steeper slopes of the eastern Middle Atlas. The landscape is typically karstic, scattered with dolines, some of which are occupied by lakes, e.g. Dayet Aoua, Dayet Hachlaf, Aguelmane Afennourir. The latter, covering 380 ha and lying at 1,800 m, is one of Morocco’s four designated Ramsar Sites. It is actually a shallow marsh, in which water is artificially retained by a low dyke, and is nowhere more than 2 m deep. In exceptional drought years (e.g. 1995) it can dry out completely. Dayet Aoua occupies about 50 ha and is relatively well conserved. Annual precipitation is 1,100 mm, much of which falls as winter snow (one of Morocco’s two ski-resorts lies just to the west of the park boundary).The park contains some of the most densely wooded parts of the country, although these only cover a small portion of its area. The principal woody species are cedar Cedrus atlantica and oak Quercus rotundifolia, but Q. faginea, Juniperus oxycedrus, J. thurifera, Ilex aquifolium, Crataegus laciniata and Pinus pinaster are also relatively common. The non-woody flora is also very rich, although there are few endemic species. Aguelmane Afennourir is surrounded by Juncus bufonius, and there are several islets of Scirpus holoschoenus. The park is relatively sparsely populated. The principal economic activity of the inhabitants is the rearing of livestock, particularly sheep, but there are increasing levels of tourism.
See Box and Table 2 for key species. The avifauna of the park is exceptionally rich, with around 142 known species, of which 120 breed, including small numbers of Marmaronetta angustirostris and Falco naumanni. Of the nine species of the Mediterranean North Africa biome that occur, eight breed while the remaining one, Sylvia cantillans, is only a scarce summer visitor (Table 2). Many Palearctic passage migrants pass through the park, and, depending on conditions, the lakes can also host large numbers of waterfowl. At Aguelmane Afennourir two species, Tadorna ferruginea and Fulica cristata, often exceed IBA threshold values as winter visitors and regularly breed in small numbers on its islets. Dayet Aoua can hold large numbers of Fulica cristata, and up to 1,200 Marmaronetta angustirostris have been observed. Geronticus eremita was once common, but has disappeared from the region since 1981 and has only rarely been seen since—most recently at Aguelmane Afenourir in June 1994. Numenius tenuirostris has also been recorded once, as a passage visitor in 1964.
Non-bird biodiversity: Although the carnivore Panthera pardus panthera (CR) formerly occurred, it is now extinct. The primate Macaca sylvanus (VU) is still reasonably common in the forested areas of the park. Six endemic reptiles are also present.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The Parc Naturel d’Ifrane is in the process of being created, and a detailed management plan has been prepared. Surveillance of the area has already been undertaken by several foresters of the AEFCS. Aguelmane Afennourir is a Ramsar Site and is classed as a priority 1 SIBE (No. H21), whilst Dayet Aoua is classed as a priority 3 SIBE (No. H15). An area of 250 ha of the Aguelmane Afennourir has been gazetted as a hunting reserve and a fishing reserve since 1980. Among the threats to the park are overgrazing, poaching (including hunting with guns and the collection of eggs of nesting waterfowl), and the impacts of mass tourism (litter, pollution of lakes) since the towns of Azrou and Ifrane are popular summer resorts, whilst the latter is also a winter-sports resort. Many of the lakes are progressively drying up due to the creation of new wells around their basins and increased water extraction lowering the underlying water-table, coupled with high rates of sedimentation. Pollution from agroindustry, including intensive chicken farms, may also be a problem. The main conservation requirement is the speedy implementation of the management plan and official gazettement of the park.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Parc Naturel d'Ifrane. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 15/04/2021.