The Merja Zerga lagoon, nestled along the Moroccan Atlantic coast between Rabat and Tangier, spans over 7,000 hectares of protected area. Since 1980, it has been recognized as a Ramsar site, in addition to its designation as a biological reserve in 1978. It represents a key site for avian migration between Africa and Europe, hosting over a hundred bird species, including the barn owl, the European whimbrel, the northern shoveler, the northern pintail, the marbled teal, the greater flamingo, the avocet, the common sandpiper, and the curlew.
Despite its protected status, the lagoon faces pressing challenges. The expansion of agriculture and urbanization lead to a critical loss of natural habitats for wildlife, as well as increased exposure to polluted water discharges. The impacts of these factors on water and habitat quality remain largely unknown, as do the potential impacts of invasive species such as the blue crab.
To counter these threats, the NGO Maroc Écosystème has launched the project “Contribution to the improvement of ecosystems and ecosystem services of the Merja Zerga lagoon.” Implemented for 20 months from October 2022, this project adopts an ecosystem-based approach and nature-based solutions. In close collaboration with the National Agency for Water and Forests as well as local stakeholders, the initiative aims to preserve biodiversity, improve local livelihoods, and strengthen conservation in the area.
The project objectives include a thorough analysis of threats to biodiversity and a comprehensive assessment of marine and terrestrial fauna. These results will be consolidated in a database, allowing, in partnership with the ANEF, the formulation of solutions to human pressures. Activities focused on capacity building in biodiversity conservation and ecotourism are also planned, with particular attention to the integration of women in these initiatives. Specific training and material support will also be provided to promote their empowerment.