The Argan Biosphere Reserve

The Argan Biosphere Reserve

Biosphere Reserves are designed to promote and demonstrate a balanced relationship between people and nature. This project aims to assess the effectiveness of the implementation of Biosphere Reserve strategies in the Argan Biosphere Reserve in southern Morocco. The strategies addressed will be those designed for the conservation of biodiversity, the restoration and enhancement of ecosystem services and the encouragement of the sustainable use of natural resources. The achievement of these will be considered in 18 core areas and selected buffer zones of the Biosphere Reserve. The study will also assess the contribution of Biosphere Reserve to the development of human settlement in harmony with the biosphere.

The Argan Biosphere Reserve covers an area of 2.499.970 ha (Eaux et Forets, 2008). The Argan Biosphere Reserve extends from just north of Essaouira to Sidi ifni in the south and from Agadir in the west to Imli in the east. It includes a series of major landscape elements such as the High Atlas and Anti Atlas Mountains, the synclinal basin of the Souss and the coastal plains of Chtouka and Tiznit. Elevations in the Biosphere Reserve extend up to 2200 m, though the presence of argan is rare above 1500 m. A wide variety of lithologies and soils occur within the Biosphere Reserve with most ancient pre-Cambrian rocks being found in the Anti Atlas Mountains. Climate varies from the cool higher elevations of the High Atlas Mountains to the dry semi-arid areas south of Tiznit. Rainfall totals exceed 400mm per annum in the High Atlas Mountains and fall below 100mm in the drier south and east of the Biosphere Reserve.

Zonation of Biosphere Reserves

Biosphere reserves are composed of three zones: core area, buffer zone and transition zone. The Argan Biosphere Reserve consists of 18 core areas comprising 16.620 ha which are equivalent to a mere 0.7% of the total area. Thirteen buffer zones surround the core areas covering an area of 582.450 ha. This represents 23.3% of the total Biosphere Reserve area. Transition zones account for almost 2m ha some 76% of the total reserve area (Eaux et Forets, 2008).

Core areas: The delimitation of the core areas corresponded to existing sites of biological and ecological interest (SIBE) which were based on the following characteristics:

  • the ecological context of the argan,
  • the existence of rare flora and fauna
  • difficult access
  • the absence of human activity.

Core areas are protected areas for conserving and enhancing biodiversity. With minimal disturbance, core areas are also used for monitoring ecosystems and are used for educational purposes. In addition to conservation, core areas contribute to a range of ecosystem services. These comprise the ways in which the environment produces resources which can be utilised by humans. These include clean air, water, food and materials.

Buffer zones: These generally surround core areas. Buffer zones are used for cooperative activities which have a sound ecological basis. These include: environmental education, ecotourism and research. They should also maintain their own anthropogenic biological and cultural diversity. They also provide a link between biodiversity in core areas and the transition zone.

Transition zone: This zone is an area of sustainable development and may include agricultural activities and settlement. It is also a zone in which activities should be collaboratively managed and may involve local communities, management agencies, scientists, non-governmental organizations, cultural groups, economic interests and other stakeholders (UNESCO, 2016).