The Mauritanian mountains of Adrar Atar and Tagant are a noticeable species-rich area. Due to alternate historical phases of dry and humid climate in the Sahara, these mountains constitute a biogeographic crossroad where isolated populations of several fishes, amphibians and reptiles can be found. The current dry stage of the Sahara confines these populations to humid and fragile habitats, such as mountain lagoons (gueltas), rendering populations vulnerable to extinction. However, the rainy season in the mountains can be strong allowing micro-scale dispersal and gene flow between populations. This project aims to investigate biogeographic and evolutionary patterns in vertebrates of Mauritania. Species distribution data and tissue samples will be collected in overland expeditions. At a macro-scale (Mauritania), species distribution data of fishes, amphibians, reptiles and mammals will be combined with genetical variability and analysed with GIS ecological modelling in order to: 1) map species distribution and identify biodiversity hotspots; 2) identify environmental factors related with species occurrence and derive models of species-richness distribution; 3) evaluate the effects of climate change on current diversity patterns; 4) elucidate phylogenetic relationships and derive historical biogeographical scenarios. At a micro-scale (Adrar Atar and Tagant), species distribution data of selected vertebrates (Barbus pobeguini, Hoplobatrachus occipitalis, Crocodylus suchus) will be analysed with GIS ecological modelling in order to: 5) identify environmental factors related with species occurrence and locate corridors suitable for dispersal between gueltas.
Funding agency: National Geographic Society
Budget: 16 000€
Project Code: CRE 8412-08
Principal investigator: JC Brito