Introduction to the Plant biology of the Zat Valley

Short summary of the reconnaissance field trip, November-December 2015

By Mercè Llugany, Llorenç Sàez, Carlota Poschenrieder and Iñigo Granzow. Dept. BAVE, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Spain.

Members of the units of Plant Physiology and Botany at UAB carried out a reconnaissance field survey and more than 50 plant and 8 soil samples were collected along a N-S profile following the Zat valley in the northern slopes of the Marrakech High Atlas of Morocco to make a first approach based on two objectives:

1- To identify endemic and threatened plants and bryophytes as there is no red-list for the Magreb region for any plant group, despite its biogeographic importance. The results of the survey show that it is particularly promising in terms of conservation the mid-high elevation alpine meadows, as they remain rather unexplored botanically and that there is considerable plant diversity. We can also assess the status and health of Juniperus thurifera subsp. africana forests and their ecological succession and restoration.

2- To asses the stresses (abiotic and biotic) limiting natural vegetation and agriculture in the Oued Zat basin.

a. At the mountain, vegetation is exposed to extreme temperatures, high irradiation, soil instability, soil composition, snow, herbivores and pathogens while the riparian vegetation is affected by drought-flood cycles, mechanical stress and eutrophication. Natural vegetation has a high degree of adaptation and different stress resistance and tolerance mechanisms have been detected.

b. The agricultural system is mostly based on ancestral agriculture techniques(low input ®low output) so there is much room for improvement. The goal is to convert it to modern sustainable agriculture (low input ®good output) and the importance of preserving local genetic resources.

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