|Central coordinates||16o 8.00' West 17o 22.00' North|
|IBA criteria||A1, A3, A4i, A4iii|
|Year of IBA assessment||2001|
Site description Aftout es Saheli is a long, narrow coastal lagoon that extends from just south of Nouakchott for 165 km to finish some 60 km north of St Louis in Senegal. Aftout es Saheli was created during two sea-level changes, which gave rise to two lines of dunes parallel to the ocean, separated by a depression of sebkhas at 1–5 m below sea-level. Only 5–10 km wide, it is isolated from the sea by a line of dunes, but is connected by a tributary to the delta of the Senegal river, which lies to the south. However, the communication with the delta is not permanent and isolation from the sea is not absolute. When the Senegal river is in flood, fresh water flows from it into the lagoon, either along channels or via the flood-plains that lie between the river and the lagoon. Thus, the salinity of the lagoon varies through the year and also from year to year depending on the rains. In years when the lagoon receives no water either from the river or from the sea it dries out completely. Riverine floods and desiccation are the more frequent events, while inundation of seawater is relatively rare. As the lowest parts of the lagoon are 1.0–1.5 m below sea-level there is some seepage, which floods the lagoon with seawater. There is also a channel, which bisects the dunes at Chott Boul (site MR017), thereby connecting Aftout to the lower Senegal delta. Before the construction of the Diama dam, the flooding of the Senegal river influenced a varying proportion of Aftout es Saheli. The accidental return of large volumes of water to the area in February 1985, due to the rupture of the dunes at Choutt Boul, restored the situation that exsisted 20 years before. The dunes on the seaward side, which form a barrier of 3 km wide between the lagoon and the sea, are exposed to tides and strong winds. They are therefore highly mobile and the vegetation is restricted to Zygophyllum, Suaeda, Tamarix spp., Nitraria retusa and Ipomoea aquatica. In contrast, the dunes on the landward side are relatively stable and are mainly covered with the shrubs Euphorbia balsamifera, Nitraria retusa and Commiphora africana. The interdune areas support well-developed vegetation consisting of a variety of forbs, with Tamarix sp. on the slopes. Borassus aethiopum is also frequent. The edges of the lagoon are dominated by Arthrocnemum glaucum and Tamarix sp., while areas which have dried out are unvegetated as a result of the formation of saline mudflats (sebkhas). Rainfall varies from less than 100 mm per year in the north to 100–150 mm per year in the south.
Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 2 for key species. Phoenicopterus minor breeds in years with favourable water conditions. Up to 2,000 individuals are regularly recorded; a total of 2,040 was counted in December 2000, of which 350 were juveniles. There is considerable annual variation in the numbers and diversity of waterbirds, dependent largely upon the amounts of fresh water coming into the lagoon from the Senegal river and the amount of seawater coming into Chott Boul. In addition, one species of the Sahara–Sindian biome has been recorded (see Table 2).
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
|Species||Season||Period||Population estimate||Quality of estimate||IBA Criteria||IUCN Category|
|Garganey Spatula querquedula||winter||1987||120,000 individuals||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus||breeding||1987||8,000 breeding pairs||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus||winter||2000||19,400 individuals||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor||winter||2000||2,040 individuals||-||A1||Near Threatened|
|Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor||breeding||2000||2,000-2,040 individuals||unknown||A1||Near Threatened|
|Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia||winter||1999||850 individuals||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus||breeding||1987||2,100 breeding pairs||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus||winter||1987||1,945 individuals||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo||breeding||1987||3,200 breeding pairs||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Arabian Bustard Ardeotis arabs||resident||2001||present||-||A3||Near Threatened|
|Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta||winter||2000||1,650 individuals||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Charadrius alexandrinus||winter||1987||6,500 individuals||-||A4i||Not Recognised|
|Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa||winter||1987||6,000 individuals||-||A4i||Near Threatened|
|Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus||winter||1987||1,150 individuals||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Sterna nilotica||breeding||1987||1,860 breeding pairs||-||A4i||Not Recognised|
|Sterna nilotica||winter||1987||2,500 individuals||-||A4i||Not Recognised|
|Grey-headed Gull Larus cirrocephalus||winter||1987||1,500 individuals||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Slender-billed Gull Larus genei||winter||1999||1,880 individuals||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia||winter||1999||640 individuals||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Little Tern Sternula albifrons||winter||1987||1,500 individuals||-||A4i||Least Concern|
|Sahelian Woodpecker Dendropicos elachus||resident||2001||present||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Cricket Longtail Spiloptila clamans||resident||2001||present||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Black Scrub-robin Cercotrichas podobe||resident||2001||present||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Sudan Golden Sparrow Passer luteus||resident||2001||present||-||A3||Least Concern|
|A4iii Species group - waterbirds||winter||-||100,000-499,999 individuals||unknown||A4iii|
|A4iii Species group - waterbirds||breeding||1987||20,000-49,999 individuals||unknown||A4iii|
|IUCN habitat||Habitat detail||Extent (% of site)|
|Land-use||Extent (% of site)|
References Daha et al. (2000), De Naurois (1969), Hamerlynck et al. (1998), Kelleher et al. (1995), Lamarche (1988), Messaoud et al. 1998), Roux et al. (1977), van Wetten (1990).
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Recommended citation BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Aftout es Sâheli. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 10/10/2015
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