Plant community patterns in Moroccan temporary ponds along latitudinal and anthropogenic disturbance gradients

<p><b><i>Background</i></b>: Temporary ponds, an abundant habitat in the Maghreb region and notably in Morocco, have a high conservation value. However, they are mainly known from the north of the country.</p> <p><b><i>Aims</i></b>: The aim of this work was to characterise the vegetation of Moroccan temporary ponds along a combined gradient of latitude and anthropogenic pressure.</p> <p><b><i>Methods</i></b>: Eighty-five ponds distributed along a north–south gradient of 750 km were sampled. For each pond, all vegetation was surveyed (flooded and dry parts) and the local abiotic characteristics were measured during two successive hydrological cycles. The prevailing anthropogenic pressures were also identified and were attributed an impact score.</p> <p><b><i>Results</i></b>: Eighty-one characteristic pond species (including 17 rare species) were recorded, with several new distribution data in the southern part of the latitudinal gradient. Plant communities were related to climatic and anthropogenic factors, but mostly to local factors, such as maximum water depth and soil pH. The northern ponds (wettest macroclimate) were rich in characteristic species and rare species, while the southern (driest macroclimate) ponds were more species poor.</p> <p><b><i>Conclusions</i></b>: In addition to the direct impact of increasing human activity, a further reduction of the floristic richness of temporary ponds is expected due to climatic changes. This is particularly the case for characteristic species which have a high conservation value.</p>