Results from years of research on biological and cultural diversity in the Moroccan High Atlas now available in an online database

  By Pommelien da Silva Cosme, Global Diversity Foundation

As with most of our partners, COVID-19 deeply impacted our (field) work due to long-lasting lockdown restrictions. At the High Atlas pilot site, the Global Diversity Foundation tried to use this desk time wisely, and together with local partner Moroccan Biodiversity and Livelihoods Association, launched a new resource: the High Atlas Biocultural Database. This database, the result of years of research carried out through the High Atlas Cultural Landscapes Programme, can be used to search for plants that grow and are being used in the Moroccan High Atlas.

Photo: A local community member is interviewed on the agdal system in Oukaïmeden © Youssef Rochdi

“This integrative and living biocultural database will be of great use for researchers as well as anyone else interested in learning about the rich biological and cultural diversity in the Moroccan High Atlas region. Seeing this multifaceted effort come to light to the public is a great pleasure and delight,” says Ugo D’Ambrosio, GDF Scientific and Technical Advisor. In addition, we developed and distributed a colourful booklet that features local and useful plant products selected by local students in different regions in the High Atlas, including Imegdal, Aït M’hamed and Ourika. The “Amazigh Household Basket” booklet also features beautiful drawings produced by these students, including olive trees, corn, cherries, carrots and thyme and is available for download here. Despite COVID-19, local community researchers have continued to cultivate endemic, valuable and threatened plant species at community plant nurseries in Imegdal, Aït M’hamed and Oukaïmeden. Earlier this year, wedistributed 24,900 medicinal and aromatic plants to 517 families in the High Atlas. These plant distributions help reintroduce selected species back to the wild, enhance rural incomes and decrease harvesting pressure on wild populations, which the community often heavily depend on for their livelihoods. More recently, our team was finally able to return to the field and started carrying out research with local community members in Oukaïmeden on their traditional pastoral land management system, also known as agdals.