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Modern surface pollen assemblages from the Middle and High Atlas, Morocco: insights into pollen representation and transport

posted on 2016-01-18, 13:30 authored by Benjamin A. Bell, William J. Fletcher

Thirty-three modern surface samples were collected in the environmentally and climatologically contrasting regions of the Middle and High Atlas Mountains, Morocco. Samples representing forest and steppe montane environments (1935–2760 m above sea level) are clustered around study sites at Lake Tislit (High Atlas, semi-arid oro-Mediterranean bioclime) and Lake Sidi Ali and Michliffen (Middle Atlas, sub-humid montane Mediterranean bioclime). Good discrimination between regional pollen spectra is evident, with Middle Atlas samples reflecting higher arboreal cover (Cedrus and evergreen Quercus) and High Atlas samples with high abundances of non-arboreal taxa, including Artemisia and Fabaceae. These four taxa (Cedrus, evergreen Quercus, Artemisia and Fabaceae) are furthermore shown to be reliable indicators of local source vegetation within a 100 m2 quadrat, taking into account threshold abundances of 7%, 20%, 4% and 10%, respectively. Deciduous Quercus, Olea and Phillyrea show long-distance pollen dispersal across both regions, contributing to non-trivial arboreal pollen (AP) values of up to 35% (typically 20–30%) in the High Atlas spectra. In the Middle Atlas, AP values of 40 to 50% occur in open sampling locations and > 60% under forest canopy cover. These insights should be taken into account when interpreting ancient pollen spectra from regional lakes and bogs for palaeoenvironmental reconstruction.