Articles | Volume 12, issue 4
Research article
21 Apr 2016
Research article |  | 21 Apr 2016

Climate change and ecosystems dynamics over the last 6000 years in the Middle Atlas, Morocco

Majda Nourelbait, Ali Rhoujjati, Abdelfattah Benkaddour, Matthieu Carré, Frederique Eynaud, Philippe Martinez, and Rachid Cheddadi

Abstract. The present study aims at reconstructing past climate changes and their environmental impacts on plant ecosystems during the last 6000 years in the Middle Atlas, Morocco. Mean January temperature (Tjan), annual precipitation (Pann), winter (Pw) and summer (Ps) precipitation, and a seasonal index (SI) have all been quantified from a fossil pollen record. Several bio- and geo-chemical elements have also been analysed to evaluate the links between past climate, landscape, and ecosystem changes.

Over the last 6000 years, climate has changed within a low temperature and precipitation range with a trend of aridity and warming towards the present. Tjan has varied within a ca. 2 °C range, and Pann within less than 100 mm yr−1. The long-term changes reconstructed in our record between 6 ka cal BP and today are consistent with the aridity trend observed in the Mediterranean basin. Despite the overall limited range of climate fluctuation, we observe major changes in the ecosystem composition, the carbon isotopic contents of organic matter (δ13C), the total organic carbon and nitrogen amount, and the carbon to nitrogen ratio (C / N) after ca. 3750 cal BP. The main ecosystem changes correspond to a noticeable transition in the conifer forest between the Atlas cedar, which expanded after 3750 cal BP, and the pine forest. These vegetation changes impacted the sedimentation type and its composition in the lake.

Between 5500 and 5000 cal BP, we observe an abrupt change in all proxies which is coherent with a decrease in Tjan without a significant change in the overall amount of precipitation.

Short summary
The present study is related the climate changes and their environmental impacts during the last 6 ky from a fossil record collected in the Middle Atlas, Morocco. We used the reconstruction of three climate variables and geo-chemical elements to evaluate the relationships between all the environmental variables. In summary, this present study confirms the overall climate stability over the last 6 ky and highlights the presence of a short and abrupt climate event at about 5.2 ka cal BP.