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Location Morocco, Oued Eddahab
Central coordinates 15o 51.00' West  23o 42.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A3, A4i, A4iii
Area 21,200 ha
Altitude 0 - 50m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

Groupe de Recherche pour la Protection des Oiseaux au Maroc (Affiliate)

Site description A huge coastal bay in the Moroccan Sahara, measuring some 37 km by 14 km, separated to the west from the Atlantic by a low promontory of coastal dunes, but open to the ocean at its southern end. The eastern inland side is bordered by coastal cliffs 50 m or so high. The town of Ad Dakhla is situated on the southernmost tip of the spit, linked to the mainland by a tarmac road which runs around the northern end of the bay. There are several other villages around the edge of the bay. The site consists of three geographically isolated units: a northern sector of 20,000 ha covering the northern part of the bay; a western sector, La Sarga, of 300 ha at the southernmost tip of the spit; and a southern sector, Pescadore, of 900 ha located on the mainland coast opposite and south of La Sarga. The bay is relatively shallow and the sandy/muddy bottom is covered in seagrass Zostera and algae. The dunal and coastal habitats are dominated by Suaeda monodiana, Nitraria retusa and Zygophyllum waterlotti. Other plants include Atriplex spp., Lotus spp., Salsola longifolia, Heliotropium undulatum and Lycium intricatum.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 2 for key species. The Baie d’Ad Dakhla is an extremely important wintering site for migrant Palearctic waders and gulls. It regularly harbours more than 20,000 waders—predominantly Calidris alpina, Calidris canutus and Limosa lapponica—more than 20,000 gulls, mainly Larus fuscus and Larus audouinii, and several hundred Phoenicopterus ruber and Phalcrocorax carbo. Five of the eight species of the Sahara–Sindian biome (see Table 2) breed in the desert habitats surrounding the bay, while the remaining three are suspected breeders. One species of the Mediterranean North Africa biome has also been recorded (see Table 2).

Non-bird biodiversity: Three Macaronesian endemic plants, Polycarpaea nivea, Teucrium chardonianum and Limonium tuberculatum, plus one Moroccan endemic, Atriplex glaucum ifniense, are known from the site. Several threatened marine mammals frequent the bay: Orcinus orca (LR/cd), Sousa teuszii (DD) and Tursiops truncatus (DD).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus winter  826 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Charadrius alexandrinus winter  1,288 individuals  A4i  Not Recognised 
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola winter  2,030 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula winter  3,779 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica winter  7,440 individuals  A4i  Near Threatened 
Red Knot Calidris canutus winter  8,400 individuals  A4i  Near Threatened 
Sanderling Calidris alba winter  2,808 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Dunlin Calidris alpina winter  22,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii winter  390 individuals  A1, A4i  Least Concern 
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus winter  23,638 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia winter  1,121 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Crowned Sandgrouse Pterocles coronatus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Pharaoh Eagle-owl Bubo ascalaphus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Greater Hoopoe-lark Alaemon alaudipes resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bar-tailed Lark Ammomanes cinctura resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-tailed Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  50,000-99,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Baie d'Ad-Dakhla Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 40,000 protected area contains site 21,200  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Desert   major
Coastline Intertidal mud, sand & salt flats; Sea cliffs & rocky shores; Shallow marine waters  major

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
fisheries/aquaculture -
tourism/recreation -

References BCEOM-SECA (1995c), Qninba et al. (1997), Rufino et al. (1998), Valverde (1957).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Baie d'Ad Dakhla. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016

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