Name: Mediani M

Biodeserts supervisor: Brito JC

Co-supervisor: Soumia Fahd

Title: Herpétofaune du Nord du Maroc: biogéographie et zones prioritaires de conservation

Institution: University of Abdelmalek Essaâdi, Morocco

Status: Completed



Observational data collected between 1989 and 2014, have enabled the development of 64 distribution maps (UTM 5x5km) amphibians and reptiles of northern Morocco as well as a wealth of maps using a 5x5km UTM system grid. Of these 64 species (11 amphibians and 53 reptiles) 3 and 9, respectively, are endemic to Morocco. Three distribution categories were identified: widely distributed species, species restricted to particular environmental characteristics and species with small and / or fragmented distributions. For total species richness, ten areas of high diversity were identified (8 for amphibians and 10 reptiles). These areas were common to all taxonomic groups and correspond roughly to Mediterranean‐type habitats.

According to their habitat selection patterns, amphibians constitute a relatively homogeneous group, while reptiles can be grouped in three assemblages: 1) generalist species with a broad distribution in northern Morocco; 2) species occupying Mediterranean environments; generally abundant in the northwestern region, and 3) species that occupy arid habitats, frequently found in the eastern region. The topographic complexity of northern Morocco apparently creates micro‐environmental conditions for each group and is related to high levels of species diversity observed: 78% and 52% of the total number of amphibians and reptiles of Morocco, respectively. These findings strengthen the status of northern Morocco as a priority area for herpetofauna conservation at the national level.

Northern Morocco is of significant ecological importance, not only for high levels of flora diversity and endemism, but also for the number of localised endemic vertebrates. Correlations between ecogeographical variables and amphibians and reptiles distribution have been studied in northern Morocco. The use of occurrence data on a local scale (1x1km) and the Maximum Entropy (Maxent) would identify a combination of climatic conditions (precipitation, maximum and minimum temperature), topography (slope) and habitat factors (DBARE, DCONS, DVEGE, DSHRU, DCRVE, DVECR), as robust predictors for presence of species. Three factors are common to both taxonomic groups and would present a correlation (positive/negative) with the presence of species: PWET, TMAX, DBARE, DCONS are also environmental factors that would influence the three sets of amphibians and reptiles richness (total richness, endemism, threatened and nearthreatened species).

Three predicted areas of high species diversity were common for both taxonomic groups and two other areas were exclusive for amphibians. These zones correspond to the observed richness, but suggest large areas of high species richness. However, despite the fact that amphibians and reptiles are the most threatened of all terrestrial vertebrates, these species are often underrepresented in the conservation planning in Morocco in general and in northern Morocco in particular. Our results show that herpes in northern Morocco are poorly protected in parks, reserves and SIBEs. An increase in protected areas is particularly needed in parts of the Atlantic coast, in the Tingitane peninsula, the Western Rif and the Oriental region in order to meet global conservation objectives. This work provides an innovative methodological framework to support the use of ecological niche modeling in the design of key biodiversity areas and its results should assist conservation planning at the regional level.

The use of species potential distribution maps by Maxent in combination with the protected area design algorithm (Zonation), enabled us to identify priority areas for conservation of amphibians and reptiles in the Occidental Rif, forest of M'amoura, Trois Fourches peninsula, Beni Snassen mountains, Highlands Oriental and northern Middle Atlas (Jebel Tazekka). Including the weighting species system in the analyzes revealed the importance of taking into consideration the vulnerability of species in the selection of protected areas, and the importance of land costs to maintaining these species in their natural habitats.