Considered to have potential as a future World Heritage Site
Location and Area: The Atlas Mountains form a contorted range along Africa's north-western flank, where continental drift has pushed the African continent against the land mass of Europe. Although there's no obvious candidate area for world heritage listing, a serial site might be developed by selecting an ecologically representative group from amongst the existing parks (see map).
Inscription Status: Not yet included on the Tentative Lists (2015).
Important Values: The fauna and flora of the Atlas Mountains has evolved in unique ways, reflecting the area's Mediterranean climate and proximity to Europe as well as its African heritage. The last lion may have been exterminated more than 100 years ago, but the area still retains key elements of its unique ecology, including iconic species such as the barbary macaque. There is today a growing interest in ecological restoration and new National Parks are being established to protect surviving remnants of natural habitats throughout the region. The scope for a serial site, modelled on the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas world heritage site deserves further study: the initial aim would be to identify the (existing or potential) protected areas that could provide for the long-term conservation of a fully representative sample of the habitats and species found in the Atlas range.
Slideshow of the Atlas Mountains (see below for description):
Slideshow description: This short slideshow provides an overview of the high altitude moorlands and forests of the Atlas Mountains which might provide a basis for world heritage listing. It begins with a series of landscape views of the westerly (Moroccan) part of the range, including a distant view of the snow-covered peaks of the High Atlas around Mount Toubkal (which was the subject of a previous unsuccessful Moroccan nomination to the world heritage list in 2006), and views of the barren mountain slopes and high moorlands (around 2,600m) of the High Atlas. It continues with a more detailed examination of the relatively undisturbed forest of the Middle Atlas (at altitudes of 1,800-2,000m) in Morocco's IfraneNational Park. This is one of the series of national parks in the Atlas Mountains that might be considered as candidate areas for a biodiversity-based nomination. The mix of ash, oak, atlantic cedar and juniper which make up these `forests, with their associated fauna and flora constitute a unique and rare habitat in this part of North Africa, and the presence of Barbary macaques is a conspicuous special feature. Much work would need to be done to research and compare the biodiversity values of different localities before a nomination is prepared, but there is clearly increasing interest and commitment to biodiversity conservation in Morocco and Algeria, so the prospect of an Atlas Mountains world heritage site certainly deserves further examination.
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