Algeria: more than 10,000 hectares of a UNESCO-listed park gone up in smoke

Algeria: more than 10,000 hectares of UNESCO-listed park gone up in smoke


More than 10% of the area of ​​a UNESCO-listed national park in northeastern Algeria has been destroyed by the violent fires that have ravaged northeastern Algeria in recent days. this Maghreb country, an expert told AFP on Saturday. 

Endowed with a unique ecosystem in the Mediterranean basin and classified as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1990, “El Kala National Park has seen more than 10,000 hectares go up in smoke in recent days”, said the academic. Rafik Baba Ahmed.

The gigantic fires on Wednesday and Thursday in northeastern Algeria killed 37 people according to official data, while local media reported a 38th victim, a man of 72 years in Guelma (east), as well as missing.

“In the past 48 hours, firefighters have intervened on 51 fires” in 17 departments, and they are still fighting two fires in Tlemcen, in the west of the country, Algerian civil protection said on its Facebook account on Saturday.< /p>

El Kala Park, located not far from the city of the same name, is considered one of the main reservoirs of biodiversity in the Mediterranean basin. Covering a total area of ​​nearly 80,000 hectares, it is home to several hundred species of birds, mammals and fish which give it “an exceptional biological richness”, underlines Mr. Baba Ahmed, who was director of the park. .

“The El Kala Biosphere Reserve is home to a very remarkable bird fauna, more than 60,000 migratory birds every winter,” says UNESCO on its website.

“ It is a mosaic of marine, dune, lake and forest ecosystems, with its marine strip rich in corals, Posidonia seagrass and fish,” adds the UN organization.

Every summer, the north of Algeria is affected by forest fires, a phenomenon which is accentuated from year to year under the effect of climate change, leading to droughts and heat waves.

Fires have “always, with one or the other exception, affected the massifs of the park”, recalls Mr. Baba Ahmed. And to add: “The forest does not recover, it becomes sparse and evolves towards a maquis of shrubs, to end up in bare soil, doomed to erosion”.

“The other impact of the fires is the scarcity, not to say the disappearance of animals and plants, and we see this through the emblem of the region, the Barbary deer which has completely disappeared for twenty years or so. still the lynx”, says the academic “pessimistic” for the future of the park.

Because “over time, the fires weaken the forest, making it vulnerable to other aggressions such as harmful insects, but above all human activities”, he underlines.

In addition to the damage caused by the fires, “the forest massifs have been fragmented by a dense road network as part of the opening up which has favored scattered constructions and the appearance of new localities with electricity and natural gas connections”, he explains.

The biological richness of the park's wetlands has been “disrupted in particular by aquaculture such as restocking by grass carp which got the better of the vegetation on which birds, fish and other crustaceans and molluscs feed,” he concludes.