A monitoring report « Le suivi scientifique au Parc national de l’Ichkeul, Année 2002-2003 »was received in March 2004 from the management authority “Agence Nationale de Protection de l’Environnement (ANPE)”. The report provides a detailed description of the current state of conservation of the property and describes the progress in the implementation of the recommendations of the workshop held in January 2003 to identify indicators and benchmarks in order to monitor the recovery of the property.
The winter season of 2002-2003 was marked by very different climatic conditions compared to previous years and this has had a positive impact on Lake Ichkeul. In particular, the report from ANPE notes:
a) The amount of water flowing into the lake was greater than the average amount supplied before the dams were built. Nearly 500 million cubic metres of water were supplied, some of it from natural precipitation and run-off; an additional 290 million cubic metres through releases from the dams upstream in 2002/2003, much greater than the annual average of between 80 and 120 million cubic metres recommended for the protection of Ichkeul;
b) Salinity decreased from a very high level of 80 g/l in September 2002, to a low of 8.4 g/l in May 2003; as is usual in summer, salinity levels then increased, but only to a low figure of 15.6 g/l in August 2003; first indications are that salinity levels in midwinter 2003/04 were down to normal winter levels of
5-6 g/l and
c) The entire area of the marshes of Ichkeul was flooded, including the higher areas of the Joumine marsh, while lower areas remained flooded for a significant period during springtime.
The general ecological restoration due to favourable climatic conditions at the property was followed by the natural regeneration of some of the vegetation, including the stands of Scirpus rushes throughout the marshes, which continued through the spring and the reappearance of pondweeds (Potamogeton pectinatus) for the first time in ten years in the lake, although to a lesser extent than in 1993 before the dams were built.
IUCN believes that the decrease in freshwater inflow caused partly by dam filling and partly by a succession of drier than average winters, has resulted in backflow of saline water from the sea into the lake. In this regard the unusually wet winter, the wettest for twenty years, has been enough to flush out all the accumulated salt, creating for the first time in 10 years suitable conditions for the germination of pondweed (Potamogeton pectinatus). This vegetation is very important for a high number of bird species.
These observations show that, despite successive dry years, the ecosystem maintains the capacity to regenerate as soon as favourable conditions are restored, as was the case in 2002-2003. The preliminary observations of 2003-2004 also foresee a second consecutive year of favourable conditions, which will hopefully confirm the continuing rehabilitation of the ecosystem.
In line with the recommendations from the IUCN/Centre/Ramsar mission of February-March 2000, work was carried out in 2002-2003 to rehabilitate the sluice (installation of automatic sluice gates), which is now close to completion and is an essential element in the management of water in Ichkeul. Work was also carried out on bathymetric surveys of the lake bottom and topographic surveys of the marshes.
Notwithstanding the irregular nature of the hydrology in the past few seasons, IUCN notes the continued need for the State Party to ensure adequate and sustained environmental water inflows into the Lake Ichkeul ecosystem.
The State Party Report only covers monitoring issues, since this is ANPE’s principal responsibility. IUCN would therefore seek the assurances from the State Party that the development of a new management plan for the property is satisfactorily progressing to ensure a proper management regime for the Park.