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Managing the variety of habitats at Ichkeul National Park, Tunisia.

With isolated Jebel limestone bedrock, which offers a remarkable view of the lake and wetland, the Ichkeul National Park in Tunisia, is recognised worldwide for the richness and diversity of fauna and flora, mainly due to the wide variety of habitats it encompasses. Ichkeul Lake is the last remaining freshwater lake in a chain that once extended across North Africa.

National Park Ichkeul, is one of the main wintering for water birds of the Western Palearctic, and it is characterised by very specific hydrology of the lagoonal-lacustrine system that affects vegetation and thousands of migratory water birds.

However hydraulic infrastructure developments in the watershed of the lake, combined with a long period of drought, have severely damaged the originally operating system from 90s. To rectify the situation and meet its international commitments, Tunisia had already made certain decisions and taken certain actions, including:

- Ensuring that water supply from the Lake Dam is "green". This decision is of great significance for an arid developing countries;

- Implementing a scientific monitoring programme recognised by all and based on the minimum monitoring carried out by the National Agency of Environmental Protection since 1995;

- Creating the conditions necessary for the implementation of a management plan for the park, through the GEF / World Bank Project 'Management of Protected Areas';

- Developing a sustainable programme, beyond the boundaries of the National Park itself, covering the entire watershed of the rivers feeding the lake Ichkeul;

The Development and Management Plan (GAP) was prepared as a five-year plan with medium-term objectives that revolve around three main tasks:

1. Establish an area of sustainable management of natural resources focused on the preservation of ecosystems which will take into account the needs of the population at the site.

2. Ensuring conditions for proper hydrological functioning of the lake-marsh system.

3. Implement a tourism development project, in order to improve living conditions of the population.

The most important activities taken to address the three tasks mentioned above are:

1. Establish an area of sustainable management of natural resources focused on conservation of ecosystems which will take into account needs of the population present on the site:

- By measuring the protection areas at the Jebel and marshes.

- Development work at wadi Joumine in the marshes to facilitate the spreading of water and wetland restoration bulrush.

- The management plan covers 122ha of ley where the residents can graze their livestock and thus reduce pressure on the lower parts of the marshes. It is interesting to note that the population fully adheres to this action; paying a minimum fee of use per head.

- Specific activities undertaken in the cave El Hawya for the protection of a large population of bats.

2. Ensuring the conditions for a proper hydrological functioning of the lake-marsh system. Since 2008 activities in this framework have primarily been focused on monitoring and scientific research; forecasting water needs of ecosystems, management lock Tinja.

a. Activities related to scientific monitoring continue to be conducted and cover the physicochemical and biological indicators. Recorded results further confirm a complete restoration of ecological compartments to a level close to that for which the national park has been ranked on the list of World Heritage.

b. Updating simulation models and forecast can provide an effective tool for water management of the park and its watershed.

c. The lock Tinja is currently managed according to the results of scientific monitoring, taking into account the constraints related to fisheries exploitation of the lake. During the years 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 there were poor hydro-climatic conditions and low freshwater inflows to Ichkeul Lock which has proven to be a center of the system water park management. For these two years we managed managed environmental conditions to maintain the ecosystem.

3. Implementation of a tourism development project for the park area in order to improve living conditions of the population:

- Several facilities including installation of signage, opening 15km of hiking trails and the installation of an orientation table near the museum.

- Activities to promote communication and raising public awareness.

- A programme for the rehabilitation of "hammams" (Turkish baths) and their future mode of operation and progress.

The management plan has identified a stepwise procedure for the establishment of a management structure with decision-making power and financial autonomy. The proposed process involves three interrelated steps for active management of the park.

A committee was established to provide opinions on the actions that may have a negative impact on National Park Ichkeul, monitor supply lake water to assist the management structure park and collect data.

A community development plan was prepared to:

-Develop systems of participatory management for pastoral and forest resources.

-Improve and diversify the sources of income of the park inhabitants:

-Relieve human pressure on the park.

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Publication:Gulf Times (Doha, Qatar)
Geographic Code:6TUNI
Date:Jun 29, 2014
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