The fascinating Gouraya Biosphere Reserve is situated on the Mediterranean coast, near the town of Sidi Touati in the Bejaia province of Algeria. The reserve incorporates the 660 meter high Mount Gouraya, (from which the park has taken its name), as well a many lovely clean beaches and interesting walking trails, which makes the park a popular destination for Algerians and tourists who enjoy getting close to nature.
Gouraya Biosphere Reserve is very rich in flora, including protected species such as the Euphorbia dendroides (tree spurge) and Juniperus oxycedrus (prickly juniper). An aleppo pine forest occupies the southern limestone area of Mount Gouraya, while the northern side consisting of imposing cliffs, is home to a number of plant species unique to the Algerian coast. Fauna to be found within the Gouraya Biosphere Reserve include troops of barbary apes, jackals, wild cats and Algerian hedgehogs. The marine zone is home to the sperm whale, short-beaked common dolphin, harbor porpoise and bottlenose dolphin.
The Gouraya Biosphere Reserve is registered on the UNESCO-MAP Biosphere Reserves Directory. This collection of 529 biospheres in 105 countries is part of an ongoing UNESCO study under its program on Man and the Biosphere (MAB) in which it strives to establish a balanced relationship between humans and the biosphere. For an area to qualify as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve it must encompass a combination of terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems. The biosphere reserve must also promote the sustainable use of natural resources in order to benefit local communities. This is done through research, monitoring, training and education.
In an effort to halt, and possibly reverse, environmental damage caused by fires and human mismanagement, the Gouraya Biosphere Reserve supports scientific research projects carried out by the local university, as well as participating in regional projects and studies put into place by regional authorities.
There are 13 villages within the Gouraya Biosphere Reserve, which are home to approximately 1,655 people primarily of Berber origin. Many of these communities make an income from bee keeping and arboriculture – cultivation of trees and vegetables. The Gouraya Biosphere Reserve is actively involved in the development of these activities and undertakes the distribution of fruit-bearing seedlings to the local communities.
Algeria’s Gouraya Biosphere Reserve is an excellent example of how, through co-operation and a mutual goal, mankind can protect and restore natural resources – to the benefit of current and future generations.