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Unravelling the impact of anthropogenic pressure on plant communities in Mediterranean temporary ponds

Siham Bouahim A C G , Laila Rhazi A , Btissam Amami A C G , Aline Waterkeyn B C , Mouhssine Rhazi D , Er-Riyahi Saber E , Abdelmjid Zouahri F , Maarten Van den Broeck A B , Serge D. Muller G , Luc Brendonck B and Patrick Grillas C H

A Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology and Environment, Faculty of Sciences Aïn Chock, Hassan II Casablanca University, BP 5366, Maarif, Casablanca, Morocco.
B Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, 32, 3000, Belgium.
C Tour du Valat, Research Centre for Mediterranean Wetlands, Le Sambuc, 13200 Arles, France.
D Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences and Techniques, Moulay Ismail University, BP 509, Boutalamine, Errachidia, Morocco.
E Department of Geography, Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, Moulay Ismail University, BP 11202, Zitoune Meknès, Morocco.
F Agronomic National Research Institute (INRA), CRRA of Rabat, BP 415 RP, Rabat, Morocco.
G Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution, Université Montpellier 2 – CNRS, Case 061, 34095 Montpellier cedex 05, France.
H Corresponding author. Email: grillas@tourduvalat.org

Marine and Freshwater Research - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF13194
Submitted: 20 July 2013  Accepted: 18 January 2014   Published online: 4 July 2014


 
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Abstract

Identifying the respective role of environmental, landscape and management factors in explaining the patterns in community composition is an important goal in ecology. Using a set of 32 temporary ponds in northern Morocco we studied the respective importance of local (within the pond) and regional (density of ponds in landscape) factors and the impacts of different land uses on the plant species assemblages, separating pond and terrestrial species. The main hypotheses tested were that (1) species assemblages respond to both local and regional environmental factors, (2) anthropogenic pressure has a negative influence on the number of pond species, and that (3) human activities differ in their impact on pond biodiversity. The results showed that (1) local factors explain most of the variation in plant community composition, and (2) land use impacts the communities through changing local environmental conditions, leading to a loss of typical pond species. Aside from recreation, all other activities (grazing, drainage, agriculture and partial urbanisation) significantly reduced the number of pond species. The conservation strategy for rare pond species should focus on maintaining networks of oligotrophic ponds, while allowing only low-impact activities.

Additional keywords: biodiversity, conservation, disturbance, freshwater.


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