The main goal of the research group, integrated by around twenty junior and senior researchers, from ICTA-UAB is to promote the interdisciplinary environmental research considering the transfer of knowledge as a cross-cutting issue in all of its research lines: Global Change, Biodiversity and Natural Protected Areas; Urban Biodiversity; Monitoring of socioecological indicators in the Mediterranean river basins; Environmental Education and Scientific Communication.

The group is leaded by Prof. Martí Boada, member of the International Committee for Education and Communication of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature); Member of the Spanish Committee of UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), and member of Spanish Man and Biosphere Program (UNESCO). Among most relevant recognitions, he has received the Global 500 UN Award (1995) and The National Environmental Prize (2003).

3 fieldwork campaigns occured:

  • November 2015: Objective: to put in value the biodiversity and landscapes of the Zat Valley through its patrimonialization
  • July 2016: Objective: to gather socioecological data in order to put in value the biodiversity and landscapes of the Zat Valley through its patrimonialization
  • July 2017: Objective: to gather data in order to put in value the biodiversity and landscapes of the Zat Valley through its patrimonialization and to identify the (cultural) ecosystem services related to the Valley though interviews with local people.


  • Protected areas
  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Socio-environmental services
  • Establishment of global change indicators
  • Pedagogic information

Conservation measures

  • Protected areas

As a main result of the strength relationship that the UNESCO International Centre for the Mediterranean Biosphere Reserves (MBR) has established with different Moroccan high-level institutions, two Moroccan Biospheres Reserves (Arganeraie BR and Oasis du Sud du Marocain BR) has been included in the Mediterranean Biosphere Reserve Network. This is a significant output of the Geopark Project.


  • Biodiversity conservation (fauna)

In this project four annual campaigns were carried out (2015-2018) by UAB-ICTA team, between May and July. The samplings are realized in transects covering all the bioclimatic stages (high mountain, half a mountain and low mountain), in every unit of landscape, and censuses of birds being carried out between 1-3km. The data collected during field observations between 2015 and 2018, including the coordinates, the name of the species, were registered, and then the sampling points on Figures were represented in the UTM 1x1 km grid.

As result, we have registered a total of 3 species of mammals, 12 species of reptiles and 5 amphibians’ species:

Between October and January 2017, in collaboration with researchers from Museum d’Histoire Naturelle de Marrakech, we have explored 5 stations along the Wadi Zat. The purpose of these surveys was to supplement the knowledge of the geographical distribution of fish in the study basin. The research team established an inventory referring to 20 species distributed in 7 families. Of these species, 13 are indigenous and 7 are introduced species. Ichthyofauna is characterized by the prevalence of cyprinids with 11 species (see table below). Two species of the whole inhabiting the Tensift water basin are captured in the Zat sub-basin.

Biodiversity conservation (vegetation)

The plant diversity team of UAB surveyed on 56 sites along 11 itineraries within and adjacent to the aspiring geopark boundary, with a focus on taxa of presumed importance for appearing to be rare or endemic (table below). Duplicates of specimen, once all fully identified, will be deposited at the Herbarium of Cadi Ayyad University (MARK).

Environmental services

Three studies have contributed to the implementation of this task: Participatory mapping, Children’s drawing as an empowering tool and Sustainable tourism.


Through Participatory Mapping (PM), the research team aims to recognize the socio-ecological knowledge of the local population in the Zat valley in Morocco to contribute to a better understanding of the complex interconnectedness of the natural environment and its inhabitants. Furthermore, this work seeks to better understand the aspiration of the community members for future development, assuming that PM is an effective methodology for these purposes.


The experience of PM was carried out with 12 local participants, equally distributed by men and women. Based on their participation by mapping the 93 pictures to establish local maps, an ArcMap has been produced using landscape units division.

In another case study carried out in Tizirt, an Amazigh community located in the middle of Zat Valley, researchers from UAB and UCAM used drawing as the method to learn about local children’ perceptions. 32 children from ages 8 to 20 years old (13 girls and 19 boys) were invited to draw the positive and negative aspects of the place where they live, and then interpret their drawings to the interviewers, who would later extracted keywords for analysis.


Researchers found that the main category that concerned children is biotic factors followed by abiotic factors and then infrastructure. Moreover the deficiencies where massively focused on natural hazards being within it the most repeated dangerous animals, followed then by unrealistic fears and later human impact. Hence, this study confirms that the predominant component in both preferences and deficiencies is related to environmental elements meaning that in preferences the two main categories were related to natural factors (flora, fauna, water, oxygen, etc), and the same happened with the main category of deficiencies since natural hazards are also related to biotic (dangerous animals) and abiotic (floods, storms, etc) elements but from a negative perspective.

A third study on sustainable tourism is based on a qualitative methodology, using semi-structured interviews and direct observation. The field work was carried out in July 2017 and was mainly focused in two regions of the Zat Valley: the Yaggour plateau (West) and the Tizirt Valley (South). Based on the description of the tourism system related with its possible attraction, the socio-economic conditions and the relationship with sustainable criteria for complex systems as tourism, researcher identifies the following main challenges: (a) the generation of news conditions of the governance system to management tourism through a “bottom up” approach.  (b) Protect the cultural component which is the main axis of all this system as an essential factor for the management of ecosystems. Both are the base of the services that will be provided to the future tourism system. And (c) design a communication program as an important element for common knowledge sharing and information exchange between different levels.  At the same time, the main opportunities are (a) to develop a tourism strategy taking into account that it is an emerging sector and the alternatives approaches targeting tourism are in demand. Focusing on developing sustainable strategies that guarantee the quality of the services and their functionality over time, (b)The conservation of traditional management systems and their understanding is an opportunity to maintain over time the cultural and natural resources and make them more resilient in the face of new scenarios. (c) Promote motivation to develop quality with certifications such as labels that can promote the sustainability standards with value change and benefits the development of complementary industries.

Establishment of ecological indicators

In this task, the two indicators for global change, Juniperus thurifera forests and birds, has been studied by UAB-ICTA research team.

For sentinel landscape of global change, the study site is located in the Yagour plateau (Figure 2.230) and covers an area of 52.2 ha, where Juniperus thurifera can be considered as an open forest. Study results show that the population of Juniperus thurifera is an open forest with low density, although is almost the double of the average for the species in Morocco. The individuals are quite old, as shown by tree-ring sampled cores, with a maximum of 462 years. The health status of the population is quite good although the lack of recruitment shows a decline that can be a problem for the viability of the population in the long term. Climate change could be affecting recruitment. Theplot design is intended to be periodically sampled to monitor the evolution in recruitment and senescence parameters, as indicators of global change processes. Evolution through time of this indicators will allow the interpretation of the occurring processes. Dendrochronology has a potential to be a good indicator for the relation between climate and ring growth. Future research is needed in this field.


As to use common bird populations as an indicator of the global change, researchershave determined a total of 2 transects of which two has been conducted during the breeding season of 2017 and 2018, one located at Yagour’s Plateau (2017) and another at low altitudes, at the village of Tighdouine (2018). At Yagour’s transect, the number of species is low, typical of the high altitudes and the homogeneous landscape. Species typically from rocky areas as Black Wheatear are present. The transect starts at village where scattered trees and small orchads are present, so more species are recorded, through the transect we arrive at high elevations were the number of species decreases. At high elevations is notorious the presence of Chough were we heve fond recorded up to 1000 individuals. At Tighdouine, a total of 30 species were recorded. Compared with the transect of Yagour’s, the number of species is high due to the characteristics of the transect: Tighdouine is located at down of the valley and the transect across part of the village, orchads and the river. So, many different habitats are present presenting a high biodiversity. Typical species of Moroccan villages such as House Bunting, Common Bulbul and Eurasian Collared-Dove are verey common. Bird species present by the presence of river includes Cetti’s Warbler, Cattle Egrett and GrayWagtail. Finally, from orchads and scattered forests, some interesting species has appeared such as Melodious Warbler, Cirl Bunting and Spotted Flycatcher.

In addition, researchers propose to determine potential transects, covering altogether practically all of the ecosystems presents at Zat Valley. The importance of this methodology is its constant over the time in order to check for changes, especially of those common species. So, this proposal, over time, could become a true CBMS (Common Bird Monitoring Scheme) as other inciatives through Europe (PECBMS, 2018).

Pedagogic information

During the scientific campaigns, 57 vegetation samples were collected from the study area to elaborate the herbarium of the Zat Valley. All the vegetation samples compiled were previously pressed and classified for being placed into the herbarium. Each file is composed by the scientific name of the specie, the date and the localization where the sample was found.

Valorisation of a landscape unit through the art: The case of the Juniperus thurifera communities

Juniperus thuriferais defined as one of the main landscape units which compose the Zat’s Valley. In that sense, and to enhance the Juniperus thurifera forests and its socioecological heritage into the Zat’s Valley area, it was developed a scientific illustration. This material could help to clarify certain concepts and to get an image that synthesis the scientific and socioecological heritage information of the vegetation community. This information could be difficult to capture through another means such as photography but, the bridge between art and science build through the elaboration of the scientific illustration idealizes and clarifies the message which is intended to transfer.

In addition, two transects were elaborated as graphical representations of the most dominant biodiversity and cultural elements presents indifferent landscape units which compose the study area. Transects were developed to define the different landscape units found in the study area. The elaboration of these transects help to valorise the socioecological heritage of the area. In addition, this material could be used as an educational tool for the civil society and schools to describe and to understand the different landscape units and its potential biodiversity.




Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain

To go further

Boada Junca M., Maneja  Zaragoza R., Marles  Magre J., Pujantell  J.,  Sanchez -Mateo S.,  Barriocanal Lozano  C.(2019)  Interpréter les paysages d’un point de vue socio-écologique : une approche méthodologique de la vallée du Zat (Maroc) . in Girault Y. (Dir.) Les géoparcs mondiaux UNESCO : une mise en tension entre développement des territoires et mise en valeur du patrimoine. ISTE éditions, Londres, 285P., pp169 -184