Houria Nekhla, Ismail Mansouri, Aziz Zahri, Wafae Squalli, Hamid Achiban, Mohammed Hmidani, Abdelbari El Agy, Ahmed Harrach, Lahsen El Ghadraoui

The ecological importance of Chamaerops humilis steppe for animal biodiversity in Northwest Africa (Morocco)

Abstract Analysis of biological diversity in woody habitats is crucial for the implementation of suitable conservation policies. We carried out monthly field visits using the point count method for avian species and walked-transect surveys for mammals and reptiles from January 2018 to December 2021 in Fez, El Hajeb and Sefrou, central Morocco. The studied sites were steppes dominated by Chamaerops humilis. A total of 90 bird, 12 mammal and 8 reptile species were documented. Furthermore, two species of conservation concern, i.e., the vulnerable European turtle dove Streptopelia turtur, and the endangered Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus were recorded. The documented species use Chamaerops humilis for breeding (support for nesting birds), foraging (via fruits) and wintering purposes. These findings are the first results related to animal biodiversity in Chamaerops humilis shrublands in Morocco. However, other aspects, including the nutritive quality of Chamaerops humilis fruits for wintering animals, need further studying. Likewise, the threatening factors that might negatively influence North African forests require urgent studying.

Doi https://doi.org/10.35513/21658005.2022.1.9

Keywords Animal diversity; breeding and foraging; Mediterranean dwarf palm; Morocco

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