|Central coordinates||12o 16.00' West 28o 2.00' North|
|IBA criteria||A1, A4i, A4iii|
|Altitude||0 - 50m|
|Year of IBA assessment||2001|
Ornithological information 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.
Site description 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.
|Species||Season||Period||Population estimate||Quality of estimate||IBA Criteria||IUCN Category|
|Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea||winter||-||300 individuals||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus||winter||-||1,083 individuals||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia||winter||-||160 individuals||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola||winter||-||2,092 individuals||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica||winter||-||3,987 individuals||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Sanderling Calidris alba||winter||-||3,800 individuals||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Little Stint Calidris minuta||winter||-||3,760 individuals||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii||winter||-||present [units unknown]||-||A1||Near Threatened|
|A4iii Species group - waterbirds||winter||-||20,000 individuals||unknown||A4iii|
|Protected area||Designation||Area (ha)||Relationship with IBA||Overlap with IBA (ha)|
|Baie de Khnifiss||Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar)||20,000||is identical to site||20,000|
|Khnifiss/Puerto Cansado||Biological Reserve||6,500||protected area contained by site||6,500|
|Land-use||Extent (% of site)|
|nature conservation and research||-|
Other 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.
Management considerations The site is public land. It was designated as a Réserve Naturelle by ministerial decree on 3/11/1962 and reclassified as a Réserve Biologique Permanente, again by ministerial decree, on 3/06/1983. It was nominated a Ramsar Site in 1980, and was classed as a priority 1 coastal SIBE (No. L36), to which the limits of the IBA correspond. Human activities include fishing, salt-harvesting and ecotourism. Near Foum Agouitir there is a permanently manned civil-guard post which confers a degree of protection on the site. The main potential threat is the proposed exploitation of oil-bearing shales in the region. The effective implementation of a proper management plan is urgently required.
References BCEOM-SECA (1995c), Auteurs multiples (1988), Dakki and de Ligny (1988).
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Recommended citation BirdLife International (2013) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lagune de Khnifiss. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/05/2013
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