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Location Egypt, Damietta,Daqahliya,Ismailiya,Port Said,Sharqiya
Central coordinates 32o 4.00' East  31o 17.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii
Area 77,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 10m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

Nature Conservation Eqypt (Affiliate)

Site description Lake Manzala, the largest of Egypt’s Mediterranean wetlands and the most productive for fisheries, is located in the north-eastern corner of the Nile delta. Manzala is generally rectangular in shape, about 60 km long and 40 km wide, and has an average depth of 1.3 m. It is separated from the Mediterranean Sea by a sandbar, through which it is connected to the sea by three channels (bughaz). The salinity in the lake varies greatly; while it is low near drain and canal outflows in the south and west, it is high in the extreme north-west. Brackish conditions predominate over much of the remainder of the lake. Over 1,000 islands of varying sizes are scattered throughout the lake.

The three main habitats are reed-swamps, saltmarshes and sandy areas. The reed-swamps of Phragmites and Typha, with associated submerged water-plants (e.g. Potamogeton and Najas), are found extensively in the less saline portions of the lake in the south and west and fringing many islands. Saltmarshes of Juncus and Halocnemum occur on the northern (coastal) margins of the lakes and some islands. Sand formations are occupied by several plant communities, e.g. coastal dunes. Open water and mudflats are also important habitats for birds. Large areas in the north-west of the lake have been turned into fish-farms, while much of the southern part of the site (south of 31°10 N) has been divided into large plots and drained, in preparation for its conversion to agricultural use.

A total of 3.7 km³ of fresh water (mostly from agricultural drainage) flow annually into Lake Manzala from nine major drains and canals. The most important of these are Faraskur, Al Sarw, Baghous, Abu Garida and Bahr El Baqar. Of all the drains discharging into Lake Manzala, the Bahr El Baqar drain is the most polluted. It carries a mixture of treated and untreated waste-water originating from Cairo and contributing much to the deteriorating water quality of the lake. Bughaz El Gamil is the main connection between the lake and the Mediterranean. Several other less important sea connections have recently been enlarged.

Key Biodiversity See Box for key species. Manzala is by far the most important wetland for wintering waterbirds in Egypt, holding a total of 233,901 waterbirds in winter 1989/90. This represented c.40% of all waterfowl counted throughout Egypt’s wetlands that winter and included the world’s largest concentrations of wintering Larus minutus and Chlidonias hybridus. There were also up to 36,180 waders present in spring 1990, indicating the great importance of the wetland for populations of passage migrants, especially of Recurvirostra avosetta, Calidris minuta, Calidris alpina and Philomachus pugnax. No similar counts are available for autumn, but the lake is likely to be as important in that season. Manzala is also of importance for a number of breeding waterbirds and wetland species. About 35 species are known to breed, including Ixobrychus minutus, Egretta garzetta, Ardeola ralloides, Porphyrio porphyrio, Sterna albifrons, Charadrius alexandrinus, Vanellus spinosus, Glareola pratincola, Caprimulgus aegyptius, Ceryle rudis and Acrocephalus stentoreus. For some of these species, Manzala is one of the most important breeding areas in the entire western Palearctic region.

Non-bird biodiversity: Reptiles: The Mediterranean shore of the lake is a potential breeding site for endangered marine turtles. Caretta caretta (EN) is the species most likely to breed in the area. Mammals: Felis chaus is still known to occur in good numbers.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Northern Shoveler Spatula clypeata winter  12,021 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides breeding  300 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Great White Egret Ardea alba winter  528 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Egretta garzetta winter  1,073 individuals  A4i  Not Recognised 
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo winter  22,500 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus passage  present  A1  Near Threatened 
Corncrake Crex crex passage  present  A1  Least Concern 
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio breeding  500 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta winter  8,981 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Charadrius alexandrinus winter  4,323 individuals  A4i  Not Recognised 
Spur-winged Lapwing Vanellus spinosus breeding  300 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Kittlitz's Plover Charadrius pecuarius winter  35 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Common Redshank Tringa totanus winter  3,247 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Armenian Gull Larus armenicus winter  358 individuals  A4i  Near Threatened 
Slender-billed Gull Larus genei winter  2,269 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus winter  47,316 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Little Tern Sternula albifrons breeding  1,500 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida winter  39,331 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  100,000-499,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Lake Manzala Nature Reserve 0 unknown 0  

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
fisheries/aquaculture -
hunting -
nature conservation and research -
urban/industrial/transport -
water management -

References Abu El Izz (1971), Ayyad et al. (1993), Baldwin et al. (1992), Meininger and Atta (1994), P. Lane Ltd. (1992).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Lake Manzala. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016

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