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Bushes protect tortoises from lethal overheating in arid areas of Morocco

  • F. LAGARDE (a1), T. LOUZIZI (a1) (a2), T. SLIMANI (a2), H. EL MOUDEN (a2), K. BEN KADDOUR (a2), S. MOULHERAT (a3) and X. BONNET (a1)...

Summary

Arid Mediterranean regions that shelter unique biodiversity are threatened by increasing anthropogenic pressures, such as urbanization, overgrazing and climate change. In Morocco, one of the main bush species in arid areas, the jujube (Ziziphus lotus), suffers from officially promoted programmes of removal. The Moorish tortoise (Testudo graeca soussensis) is threatened by such habitat loss. Like most animals, the Moorish tortoise must navigate between microhabitats to find essential feeding resources and thermal refuges. This study combined radio-tracking of free-ranging individuals, microhabitat temperature monitoring and transects in a range of habitats. Tortoises were found to depend on the occurrence of large and relatively abundant bushes to escape lethal overheating. Thus, (1) current official encouragements for the destruction of the jujube bushes should be reappraised; (2) habitat restoration relying on replanting jujube bush should be encouraged; and (3) large-scale monitoring of critical bush densities should be used to better organize conservation plans (protection and/or restoration of areas) for the Moorish tortoise.

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Corresponding author

*Correspondence: Dr Xavier Bonnet Tel: +33 5490 97879 Fax: +33 5490 96526 e-mail: bonnet@cebc.cnrs.fr

References

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