Assessing the conservation status and producing the Red List of High Atlas flora

Mediterranean Conservation Programme, Global Diversity Foundation 

31 July 2019

From 2015 to 2019, Global Diversity Foundation, in partnership with the Moroccan Biodiversity & Livelihoods Association (MBLA), carried out conservation studies and assessments in the High Atlas communities of Aït M’hamed and Imegdal, where anthropogenic activities are causing enormous ecological change. Working closely with the communities, we identified threats affecting the flora of the High Atlas and investigated the degree of the threats. Through our research, we were able to establish a baseline from which to monitor changes in the status of High Atlas plant species, propose and develop conservation priorities on a national level and set up a representative selection of species—biodiversity indicators—that includes all the major ecosystems found in Morocco.

The approach we used to carry out conservation assessments and red listing of High Atlas flora was based on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species criteria and categories. The graphic below is a summary of the steps we carried out.

Defining the preliminary list of High Atlas flora

The first step we took was to define a species list through desk-based assessments: species were identified and assessed based on available scientific literature, herbaria and online databases.

Collecting sample species and data

This was followed by intensive field work—vegetation surveys and ecological census—to collect sample species and data, such as the extent of occurrence (EOO), area of occupancy (AOO), number of locations, number of mature individuals and population reduction rates.

Identifying uses and economic benefits

We then interviewed herbalists, plant collectors and local people to obtain information on markets, including the economic, medicinal and handicraft uses of the targeted species.

Mapping

Using ArcGIS and Geocat software, we mapped the distribution ranges of the targeted species.

IUCN database (SIS: Species Information Service)

We then uploaded a full account of each targeted species (84 species studied to date) to the IUCN SIS database, including a bibliography and distribution map. We assigned a Red List category and criteria for each assessment based on IUCN guidelines.

Draft assessments

The assessments were then sent for internal review by experts of Moroccan flora, followed by external reviews by the appropriate Red List authorities. All assessments were checked for consistency, proofreading and formatting by the assessors before submission to the IUCN Red List unit.

Publications

After being accepted by IUCN reviewers, the conservation assessments were published in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. To date, 24 of the 85 conservation assessments submitted have been reviewed, accepted and published.

About the IUCN Red List

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is widely recognised as a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity. It is used to guide conservation responses, influence conservation policies and legislation, plan protected area networks and prioritise sites to be safeguarded. Assessing the conservation status and producing the Red List of High Atlas flora provides information and analyses on the status, trends and threats to High Atlas plant species and populations in order to inform and catalyse actions for biodiversity conservation. These efforts are part of our research action carried out under the High Atlas Cultural Landscapes Programme.