a1 CEBC CNRS, 79360 Villers en Bois, France
a2 Université Cadi Ayyad, Faculté des Sciences Semlalia, Laboratoire Biodiversité et dynamique des Ecosystèmes (BioDEcos), BP 2390, Marrakech 40000, Maroc
a3 SEE-CNRS Moulis, 09200, Moulis, France
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.
(Received June 22 2011)
(Accepted September 23 2011)
(Online publication January 19 2012)