Pilot Site: Banc d'Arguin National Park (PNBA)
The Banc d’Arguin National Park (PNBA) is located on the coast of Mauritania between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and covers 180 km of coastline. The MPA was created by the Mauritanian government in 1976 to maintain the integrity and productivity of the land, marine and insular ecosystems, and to protect the important fauna and flora. Considering the international significance of the wetland, the PNBA has been classified as a Ramsar site in 1982. Additionally, in 1989 the PNBA was designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site and was declared a Gift to the Earth by the World Wildlife Fund in 2000.
The 12 000 km2 park’s exceptional value lies in the contrast between the high biodiversity of the marine area and the harsh desert conditions, which resulted in an extraordinary land- and seascape. Vast mudflats, sand banks and dunes, seagrass meadows and mangroves are crucial habitats for a luxuriant diversity of fauna. During winter, the site is home to over 2 million wintering shorebirds from northern Europe, Siberia and Greenland. Moreover, the park’s environment supports an important fauna of fish (45 species), crustaceans (11 species), marine turtles (including green sea turtles, Chelonia mydas, which are on the IUCN Red List of endangered species) and marine mammals (bottlenose dolphins and the Atlantic hump-backed dolphin).
The presence of three different seagrass species (Zostera noltii, Cymodocea nodosa, Halodule wrightii) adds to the unique value of the National Park. These are keystone species who support the incredible biodiversity found within the Park and are essential for local populations’ food and economic security.
Increasingly, the PNBA is a critical site for conservation in Mauritania as important economic activities and infrastructure development projects continue to grow around it: the rapid development of fisheries as well as offshore oil exploitation in Lévrier Bay; the construction of the trans-Saharan road linking Europe to Africa, the development of the city of Chami, and the exploitation of the Taziazt gold mines in the East. All potentially could have impacts on the park’s biodiversity.