Imegdale a Micro-Hotspot in the High Atlas

The Rural Commune of Imegdale is a micro-hotspot in the High Atlas. It occupies a total area of 278 km2. It is dominated by mountains (70%) with altitudes ranging from around 1000 to 2500 m. The climate is arid Mediterranean characterized by a hot-dry summer, a wet-cold winter and an annual rainfall of around 300 mm. The average temperature is 28°C, the average maximum temperature of the warmest month is 42°C, and the minimum temperature of the coldest month is -2°C. Water resources remain low despite the presence of the Oued N'fiss and its tributaries that flow through the commune due to intense local water use. Geologically, the overall Central High Atlas is formed by ancient earth formations (Cambro-Ordovician and Cambrian, Cambrian and anti-Cambrian) and consists essentially of a large mass of primary age shales and limestone, with a few large Permo-Triassic basins (e.g. Talat Yacoub and Ouirgane Tagndaft).

The population of Imegdale is 5467 people distributed in 1156 households that are dispersed in over 30 small villages (REF). The population has decreased by a rate of -0.02% every decade over the past 20 years (in1994 there were 5594 people, in 2004 5537 people, and in 2014 5467 people), due to immigration to the cities or neighbouring villages (e.g. Amizmiz, Marrakech) and family planning. The population density is low (20 inhabitants / km²) compared to the province (79 inhabitants / km²) and the national (42 inhabitants / km²) averages. Imegdale is an example of a poor rural community in the High Atlas, where the main livelihoods are still subsistence agriculture, pastoralism (mainly sheep and goats), timber harvesting and trade of useful plants.

Imegdal map

Floristic Studies

The territory of Imegdale is characterized by a high density of vegetation and a high diversity of taxa. It contains over 170 vascular species grouped in 123 genera and 39 families;24.53% of the species are endemic (REF). The most abundant families of the flora of Imegdale in terms of species richness are Asteraceae, Caryophyllaceae, Poaceae and Fabaceae. However, the most common endemic taxa of Imegdale are the genera Linaria, Cirsium and Festuca and the families of Asteraceae, Lamiacea, Fabaceae, Apiaceae and Poaceae.

Conservation Efforts

Local Herbarium: We have carried out extensive ecological and floristic surveys in Imegdale, producing a local herbarium with a total of over 1,300 specimens mounted and collected by local researchers from the community. Four sets of specimens were collected and deposited to local, regional and national herbaria: (MARK) Regional Herbarium at Cadi Ayyad University, (RAB) National Herbarium at the Institut Scientifique and the local commune of Imegdale. Specimens have been identified and databased.

Ex Situ Conservation:In Imegdale, we helped establish a 2.4ha community nursery. Here, commercial species that support local livelihoods are being cultivated including almond, walnut, carob, lemon, olive, quince, pomegranate and fig trees, grapes, and a number of medicinal and aromatic plants. Saplings and plants are then distributed to families throughout the commune to support household livelihoods. We are also cultivating wild and endangered species for enrichment planting in natural habitats.

Ecological Monitoring:We have been using a Line Intercept Transect (LIT) as a basis for monitoring in the site of Imegdale. We placed a LIT in an enclosure created by the community and in accessible areas outside the enclosure, contrasted by the presence and absence of grazing herds. The objective of this study is to assess the local floristic biodiversity, the frequency of the most common species in the area and the impacts of grazing.

Capacity building:Capacity building and training, both of community members and of students from national universities, are at the core of our approach. We have trained community researchers and community members in floristic surveys, ecological monitoring and nursery management. We have provided university students and community researchers with training on herbarium techniques, conservation assessment fieldwork, red-listing according to IUCN criteria and categories, social science data collection, ecological field techniques, managing collections with BRAHMS (Botanical Research and Herbarium Management System), seed-collecting and post-harvest handling techniques.

Floristic and conservation studies