Algeria with the second largest economic resources in the MENA region after Saudi Arabia, because of its oil and gas reserves, might be facing a crisis in biodiversity. According to a recent report from the Algerian Ministry of Planning and Environment 51–66% of its plants and animals are endangered by human activities and changes in natural habitat. The report blames a booming human population and unsustainable development programmes for the biodiversity crisis in Algeria. Also, “illegal fishing and overgrazing are the largest threats posed to biodiversity in Algeria” said Wael Al-Zeraey, an environmentalist at Djillali Liabes University of Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria. Forest fires are contributing to desertification. Pumping of untreated industrial waste into the sea threatens coastal life, he adds. Algeria is home to 107 different types of mammals, but 47 of these are endangered, such as the Barbary stag and the Barbary leopard. It is also home to more than 1,000 endangered plants, 100 of which are endemic to North Africa.
The climatic conditions of Algeria with very different weather conditions ranging from the coastal regions to forests, oases, Atlas Mountains and deserts have provided the country with rich, unique and diverse biodiversity. However, according to Nadia Chenouf, director of biodiversity at the Algerian Ministry of Planning and Environment. “Each of these elements and components of Algeria’s biodiversity is unique in its own way and the dangers it faces.”
Algeria has signed several international treaties for protection of biodiversity, including Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in 1982. Algeria has ten nature reserves, covering an area of 365,165 hectares. The report stresses the importance of involving civil society in planning and managing these national assets.
There are several reasons for the ongoing degradation in biodiversity, e.g. Algerian civilwar, population growth, tourism, lack of public awareness, implementation of effective preservation and protection, also establishing large-scale and long-term minotoring and observation infra-structures. Also, limited investmentses in education and research as well as lack of regulations and conventions and insufficient policies for control.
The report recommends the ministry of education should strengthen the biological sciences and develop biosystematics, biotechnology, genetic engineering and resource. The report claims that although the government has focused on legislations and laws to protect the environment, it has not worked on actually applying them on the ground.