The Bureau was informed that a four-person team representing IUCN, the Ramsar Convention and other international and regional organisations, visited the site from 28 February to 4 March 2000. The team reviewed the monitoring programmes currently in place and considered additional parameters and indicators that need to be included in an expanded programme to monitor the effectiveness of the rehabilitation measures currently being implemented by the State Party. The report of the mission team has been submitted to the State Party for comments.
The mission concluded that Ichkeul National Park would have to be retained in the List of World Heritage in Danger for a considerable number of years before a thorough assessment of the effectiveness of the rehabilitation programme currently being put in place by the Tunisian Government is feasible. There are several positive signs that indicate that the potential for the effective rehabilitation of the lakes and the marshes still exists. For example, germination tests have been carried out on seeds of Potamogeton collected in the sediments of the zone occupied by beds of this plant before 1996 (western part of the lake). These laboratory tests, carried out under optimal salinity conditions for germination, were successful and proved that the lake still maintains its potential to reconstitute the beds of Potamogeton which have currently been replaced by beds of Ruppia sp. The same is true for the restoration of rushes over large areas of marsh several years after the disappearance of the plants as they reappear when marshes are flooded during the right period for germination and also in pools of rain water in little depressions.
In respect of establishing a programme for monitoring the effectiveness of the rehabilitation programme, the mission team recommended that the National Agency for Environmental Protection (ANPE): (a) maintain the current programme for monitoring water quality and quantity; (b) introduce a new component to monitor the development of bathymetry of the lake; (c) maintain the current programme of monitoring the submerged flora, and extend it further by strengthening the monitoring team through the recruitment of specialized multidisciplinary staff; (d) initiate a monitoring programme for the flora of the marshes; (e) improve the monitoring of bird populations by targeting key-indicator species and by setting up an institution with the ability to collect, store, analyse and check the ornithological data, and by training the necessary staff; and (f) introduce a programme to monitor the flora and fauna of the mountain, particularly with a view to detecting changes in grazing pressure due to domestic stock.
The mission team suggested that the integrated management plan for the Park and its surrounding area be updated and improved, using the Ramsar Guidelines on management planning for wetlands. Furthermore the team has recommended the establishment of an institutional structure with the means and powers necessary to implement this integrated management plan.
The mission team identified the need for implementation of three urgent measures: (a) restoration of the Joumine marsh; (b) studies on the siltation of the lake; and (c) consideration of water releases from the dams in the spring of 2000. Furthermore, the mission team encouraged that the data gathered and analysed so far for the safeguarding of the Ichkeul National Park be published in an appropriate scientific journal.
The Bureau commended the efforts of the State Party to set up a systematic monitoring programme for Ichkeul and invited the State Party to consider the recommendations of the mission with regard to continuing certain aspects of the on-going programme, as well as adding new elements to it. The Bureau drew the attention of the State Party to the need to urgently restore the Joumine marsh, undertake studies on the siltation of the lake, and initiate water releases from the dams. The Bureau emphasised the need to develop adequate institutional capacity to implement the activities linked to the systematic monitoring programme that is likely to be implemented over a period of several years. The Bureau invited the State Party to submit a report to the Centre, before 15 September 2000, describing its response to the recommendations of the mission and the steps it has taken to implement the three urgent measures so that the report could be reviewed by the twenty-fourth session of the Committee. The Bureau agreed with the point of view expressed by the Moroccan Delegate that the State Party needs to be given all the encouragement possible to restore the site and that the results of the efforts to restore Ichkeul could set a precedent for monitoring the state of conservation of similar sites and restoration efforts elsewhere. The Bureau recommended that the Committee retain this site in the List of World Heritage in Danger.