Belezma

© UNESCO, Belezma Biosphere Reserve
Landscape of the Belezma Biosphere Reserve

The Belezma biosphere reserve is located in the North-East of Algeria, within the Batna Province on the slopes of the Belezma Range, which forms part of a subrange in the Aurès Mountains. The biosphere is made-up of a rich mosaic of habitats such as forests, thickets, lawns, cliffs, mountains feet, rivers and mines. It also contains 5,315 hectares of Atlas cedar (representing almost 1/3 of the cedar forests of Algeria), a tree several hundred years old that is the flagship species of the Aurès region, and whose wood is used for traditional crafts such as weaving or agriculture.

The biosphere reserve also contains several historical and archaeological sites, including caves and tombs representing the traces left by ancient civilizations, as well as a total population of 3,500 inhabitants, who engage mostly in agricultural activities such as livestock and grain farming, administrative and commercial activities, as well as handicraft.

Designation Date: June 2015.
Administrative Authorities: The Directory of the Belezma National Parc (La Direction du Parc National de Belezma) – The Belezma Organization for the Conservation of Forests (l’Organisation pour la Conservation des Forêts) – The Belezma Office of Public Works (La Direction des Travaux Publics) – The Belezma Office for Hydraulics (La Direction de l’Hydraulique) – The Belezma Office for the Environment (La Direction de l’Environnement) – The Presidents of the Communal Popular Assemblies (Les Présidents des Assemblées Populaires Communale).  
Surface area (terrestrial and marine): 26,250 ha
Core area(s): 7,265 ha
Buffer zone(s): 6,518.5 ha
Transition area(s): 12,466.5 ha

Location
Latitude:
35°34’52”N
Longitude: 6°01’38”E
Midpoint: 17°48′48″N  - 002°42′11″E

Ecological Characteristics

© UNESCO, Belezma Biosphere Reserve
Winter Landscape of Belezma Biosphere Reserve

The Belezma biosphere reserve is the southernmost national park of the northern part of the country, and thus acts as a bulwark against the negative influences of desertification. The very rugged terrain throughout the biosphere reserve is formed by folds oriented Southwest, West, North-East, which provide a great variety of natural habitats. This mosaic of habitats consists of forest, maquis shrublands, lawns, cliffs, scree, mountains, rivers, caves and mines.

The Belezma flora is made-up of 650 identified plant species (including fungi), with 11 protected species, which represents 20.77% of the overall Algerian flora. This includes several rare plant species such as the Rosmarinus officinalis, Rosa canina, Globularia alypum or Ilex aquifolium. More importantly, the Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica), a tree species endemic to North Africa (Algeria and Morocco), is a protected species in Algeria by Executive Decree. The Atlas cedar, a majestic tree that is centuries old, is the emblematic species of the Aurès region, and its wood is used in traditional crafts such as weaving, or arraires for agriculture etc.
By itself the Belezma biosphere reserve contains 5,315 ha of cedar trees, representing almost 1/3 of the cedar forests in Algeria. The habitats of the cedar forests in the Belezma biosphere reserve are special and unique compared to other Algerian cedar forests.

The biosphere reserve is considered to be one of the great nesting sites for birds of prey in the Aurès Mountains, mainly because of the tranquility and diversity of the uninhabited areas. The diversity of the habitats allow the local fauna to thrive thanks to the rich food supplies. The biosphere contains a total of 655 animal species, including 26 Mammal species, 112 bird species, 22 reptile species. There are aso several rare animal species such as the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), the Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor), or the Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena).

 

Socio-Economic Characteristics

© UNESCO, Belezma Biosphere Reserve
Beekeeping in the Belezma Biosphere Reserve, Algeria

The total population of the biosphere reserve includes 3500 people, who are mainly descendants from the Chaouias tribes that are of Berber origin (Amazigh). The territory of Belezma National Park is mostly dominated by the occupation of the forest estate. On unoccupied land, the forest gives way to grasslands altitude. At the foothills of the mountains, it is agriculture which settles in the best land. Local agriculture was for a long time oriented towards cereals (barley or wheat) and livestock. In recent years there has been a development of arboriculture (apple, walnut, apricot and olive trees) and beekeeping. In addition, some plants are used in traditional medicines such as thyme, artemisia, rosemary and globular. The majority of agricultural activities in the biosphere focus on family agriculture, livestock, poultry, beekeeping, and uncontrolled grazing. Moreover, the local population engages in traditional and customary activities that are based on clay pottery, tapestry based on sheep wool, as well as jewelery making.

The Belezma biosphere reserve, due to the beauty of its landscapes and historic sites, is ideal for the development tourism. Each year the biosphere reserve receives approximately 50,000 visitors.

The biosphere reserve contains several imortant historical and archaeological sites, caves and tombs. These are also favorite destinations for tourists, as they contain the traces of successive civilizations that lived in the area centuries ago. This includes the R'Hawet watermills, the ruins of Abdous Oued Chaâba, as well as the rock carvings of Thérchiouine to Refaa. In addition, the park is surrounded by world-renowned archaeological sites such as the ruins of Zana, the tomb of Imedghacen (Berber king), the ruins of Timgad and Tazoult, as well as the tomb of El Hocine and the Ksar Belezma.


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