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Location Namibia, Erongo
Central coordinates 13o 59.00' East  21o 45.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii
Area 500 ha
Altitude 0 - 2m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

Site description Longshore drift of sediments from south to north along the coast, driven by the Benguela Current, has led to the formation of a sandbar across what was formerly a coastal embayment just south of the rocky promontory of Cape Cross. The inner part of the embayment remains a series of saline lagoons. These receive oceanic water from seepage through the sandbar and, during extreme high tides or storms, by water washed over the sandbar. The lagoons vary in size and number depending on water-level, and are controlled by two main factors: evaporation and seawater input. Desiccation of the eastern borders of the embayment has produced sterile saltpans and flats. These salt deposits are worked commercially on a small scale. Three wooden platforms with a total area of 68,000 m² have been erected in some of the lagoons to provide roosting and breeding places for seabirds, as their guano is commercially harvested. Guano from these platforms probably serves to enrich the micro-flora and fauna of the lagoons. There is an irregular fringe of saltmarsh vegetation along the coastal edge of the lagoons. Inland of this region are the rocky gravel-plains of the Namib desert.

Key Biodiversity See Box for key species. The lagoons, and their platforms, have been known to support up to 14% of the global population of Phalacrocorax capensis (30,600 pairs), but estimates as high as 900,000 cormorants were made from aerial counts in 1974. Regular wetland counts indicate that, in addition to cormorants, these lagoons regularly support up to 11,000 other birds. In total, the lagoons and platforms regularly support over 20,000 birds, including up to 16% of the southern-African-endemic subspecies Podiceps nigricollis gurneyi and large numbers of Phoenicopterus ruber and P. minor, Charadrius pallidus, Calidris ferruginea, C. minuta, Larus dominicanus, L. hartlaubii, Sterna balaenarum, S. bergii and large flocks of S. hirundo.

Non-bird biodiversity: A massive mainland breeding colony of the Namibian near-endemic seal Arctocephalus pusillus, numbering 156,000 adults and subadults, occurs here. This is one of two populations in Namibia that are harvested commercially, mainly for pelts.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis winter  120-2,187 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus winter  1,354-1,961 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor winter  common  A1  Near Threatened 
Cape Cormorant Phalacrocorax capensis winter  2,420-60,000 individuals  A1, A4i  Endangered 
Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus winter  126-300 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Greater Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii winter  265-500 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Damara Tern Sternula balaenarum winter  present  A1  Near Threatened 
A4iii Species group - seabirds winter  20,000-49,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Cape Cross Seal Reserve Reserve 6,000 protected area contains site 500  

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -
tourism/recreation -
other -
Notes: Small-scale salt production; commercial guano harvesting.

References Berry (1976b), Cooper et al. (1982), Noli-Peard and Williams (1991), Olivier and Olivier (1993), Simmons (1991, 1992), Tarr (1996), Williams (1991).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Cape Cross lagoon. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016

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