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Change, stress and sustainability - aquatic ecosystem resilience in North Africa


* Identify the impact of land-use practices on shallow lake ecosystems systems in intensively farmed regions of Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt since ca. 1900.
* Recognition of pre-disturbance communities and of current baseline ecological and water quality conditions.
* Regional implementation of modern biological and water quality survey with centrally imposed analytical quality control.
* Establishment of internationally coordinated protocols for future monitoring and setting of environmental objectives for future conservation management of the selected lake ecosystems.
Expected Outcome

This project focuses on impact assessment of one threatened North African habitat type and in isolation will not mitigate the current problems. It will however provide (i) a detailed picture of the rate and extent of environmental degradation at the study sites; (ii) information on past community composition; and (iii) identify the environmental stress factors. Furthermore, it will collect a harmonized quality controlled data set concerning the state of these aquatic ecosystems in the late twentieth century by which future changes can be assessed. This work offers an innovative and unique approach to obtaining past records for un-monitored sites using dated sediment cores. These, when combined with the modern survey results, will form a firm and reliable base for environmental assessment and future monitoring by local scientists. The establishment of permanent transect points for each lake is one way by which the work can be continued after the life of the project. In addition, links established by this project between active scientists in Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt and between the European partners will facilitate cooperation between interested groups and promote a computer environmental database for North African wetland lake ecosystems. The work should therefore lead to the creation of an effective network of sites and specialists that will continue to exist after this project ends.
* collection of sediment cores from each site for radiometric dating and palaeolimnological analysis;
* utilization of the recent fossil record to identify trends in species abundance changes and aquatic ecosystem structure since ca. 1900;
* utilization of the geochemical and lithostratigraphic record to infer the timing and impact of site disturbance and contamination by land-use change, agrochemicals (pesticide residues) and trace metals;
* description of the modern baseline biological and chemical status of each site with special reference to sampling algae, zooplankton, fish, water chemistry and chemical contaminants;
* investigation of the behaviour of agro-chemical pollutants (particularly the partitioning of pesticide residues between sediments, water and the biota);
* establishment of transect lines and sites for future monitoring purposes and publication of results to provide a database for future studies and to inform international conservation groups of the work;
* introduction of palaeolimnology as an inexpensive tool for monitoring recent environmental change in North African wetland lakes;
* establishment of communality in scientific method and good analytical quality control between all the laboratories involved to facilitate future international collaboration.

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts
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Participants (4)

El Minia University

61111 El Minia
Allegaten 41
5007 Bergen
Université Mohammed V
703,Charia Ibn Batota 703
10106 Rabat
Université Tunis II

1060 Tunis