Site details

Banc d'Arguin
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              Candidate Primary Site

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Synoptic description of site:

Tidal flat area of c. 500 km2 intersected by tidal channels. Borders on the Sahara. Largely covered by seagrass Zostera noltii.


Habitat description:

Sebkhas (saline flats just above high tide level), sandy beaches, bare sandy flats, muddy flats covered by seagrass, shell beds, tidal channels, rocky outcrops.

Pristiness: High


The Banc d’Arguin is a national park of about 10,000 km2 Surrounding the tidal flat area. Within this area only about 1,500 people live by herding and fishing. There is no industry, nor run-off of (polluted) fresh water. It is the most pristine tidal flat area I have ever seen worldwide.


Access difficult. Permission needed from the Director of the Park after advice from the Conseil Scientifique. Half a day driving by Landrover from the capital. In the middle of the park is a small biological station with very basic facilities.

Available database and website:

Ens B.J., T. Piersma, W.J. Wolff, L. Zwarts eds. (1990). Homeward bound: Problems waders face when migrating from the Banc d’Arguin, Mauritania, to their northern breeding grounds in spring. Ardea, 78, 1-364. Wolff, W.J., J. van der Land, P.H. Nienhuis & P.A.W.J. de Wilde, 1993. Ecological studies in the coastal waters of Mauritania. Develop-ments in Hydrobio-logy 86/ Hydrobiologia 258, 222 pp.

Additional Information:

The Banc d’Arguin is a tidal area with a tidal range of about 2 m. The climate is extremely arid causing high salinities in land-locked bays, but the seaward tidal flats are marine in character. Flora includes mangroves Avicennia africana, grass Spartina maritima and seagrasses with Zostera noltii completely dominating the flats, and Cymodocea nodosa in the channels. Benthic fauna is rich in species and poor in biomass. Species composition is a mixture of tropical and European elements (e.g. Cerastoderma, Hydrobia, Carcinus). Feeding ground of fair numbers of green turtles. Extermely rich in wintering shorebirds and breeding piscivorous birds. Mammals include bottle-nose dolphin (Tursiops) and hump-backed dolphin (Sousa teuszi). Ther is normally no freshwater discharge along the shore (desert), so no impact of riverine pollutants. Human habitation is very sparse and at a very basic level (artisanal fishing). However, fishing has switched rcently to catching sharks and skates, resulting in a decline of top predators. National Park since about 1975. The Park is attached to the office of the president of Mauritania