Amphibians of Morocco, including Western Sahara: a status report
Morocco has one of the highest rates (28.6%) of amphibian endemism among countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and, while large areas of Morocco are crucial for conserving amphibian biodiversity, some areas are not afforded legal protection. We examine biodiversity, identify immediate anthropogenic threats, discuss critical habitat for the conservation of amphibian diversity and the role of currently protected areas in meeting conservation goals within Morocco, Western Sahara included. The study area harbours 14 amphibian species, eight of which are assigned to the categories of Endangered (Pelobates varaldii), Vulnerable (Salamandra algira, Amietophrynus xeros, and Hoplobatrachus occipitalis) or Near Threatened (Pleurodeles waltl, Alytes maurus, Bufo spinosus, and Barbarophryne brongersmai) using IUCN criteria at the regional level of the study area. Habitat loss and degradation due to conversion of land for agriculture, urbanization, or industry are major threats, but infrastructure for tourism, freshwater pollution by chemicals, introduction of non-native species to aquatic ecosystems (Gambusia holbrooki), pathogens (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), road-kills, and natural disasters (drought), are also rapidly increasing threats. In addition, consequences from global warming must also be considered. The present Conservation Area Network (CAN) does not include distributional ranges of some amphibian species, and a more complete CAN in Atlantic and desert areas is suggested. The northwestern Atlantic, Rif-Middle Atlas, Central Atlantic, and Tiris regions should be considered priorities for conservation because of amphibian endemism and/or the existence of isolated amphibian populations.