The Rif mountains of northern Morocco represent a region of international significance from the standpoint of plant biodiversity with Abies maroccana amongst the endemic species; forest clearance, soil erosion, high rural population density and population growth are serious threats. Legal and illegal exploitation of the remaining natural forest for fuel, timber, forage and cork, produces some loss of forest but land clearance for extensions of the cultivated area, and other changes in the agricultural system such as the use of herbicides and fertilizers, and increased mechanization, are also resulting in loss of natural vegetation cover. Since 1989 cultivation of cannabis has increased in area from 25 000 ha to approximately 75 000 ha and this has greatly exacerbated the threat of degradation. A number of studies and initiatives are currently under way to address the challenges to the region and in particular the cannabis problem. It is suggested that an integrated approach using GIS methodology and carried out within the management framework of the Man and Biosphere Programme could provide a solution to the environmental threats facing the Rif mountains today.
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