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Programme Maroc-Allemand de Recherche Scientifique: "Detecting and understanding hydro-climatic, ecological and socio-ecological tipping points: A multi-scale study at the Moroccan desert margin".

The project directed by Christoph Zielhofer focuses on climatic and ecological tipping points in North African lakes and adjacent environments along the present-day desert margins of the Mediterranean region. The western Mediterranean desert margin is considered to be among the most sensitive landscapes to global warming. The major aim of our proposed project is to analyse the environmental variability on the Moroccan mountainous desert margin. This will enable us explicitly to understand the interactions between hydro-climatic, geomorphological, ecological and socio-ecological tipping points in the region, and furthermore to refine scenarios for future climate changes. A key concern of the planned project is the coupling of different spatial and temporal scales. We will focus on the two lake sites of Lake Sidi Ali (Middle Atlas) and Lake Tislit (High Atlas) and their adjacent terrestrial geo-ecosystems, including ancient lake shorelines. Our focus on these two sites will result in a NE to SW desert margin transect that encompasses a range of precipitation regimes, with increasing Saharan influence further inland. Our project will compile (palaeo)hydrological and (palaeo)ecological datasets and integrate them with archaeological, historical and modern land use data, thereby providing reconstruction of past conditions over a range of spatial and temporal scales.

Preparing the archaeological part of the project, we focused on Lake Sidi Ali in the first step. Together with Abdeslam Mikdad and Fadoua Nekkal (INSAP). In spring 2016 we carried out a first field trip to survey the immediate surrounding of the lake based on fieldwalking, combined we geoarchaeological investigations. During this campaign we identified several sites of the Paléolithique Moyenne and the Epipaléolithique with a rich lithic material. Furthermore, we were able to identify campsites, burial places and economic infrastructure of younger periods.
In a gully leading to the lake, we documented a fireplace with a stone pavement, buried by thick colluvia. Further investigations of mammal remains and charcoal will enlighten the chronological and functional classification as well as the environmental conditions.
In 2017, research will be intensified based on field trips, remote sensing and a regional analysis of existing archaeological data from the High and Middle Atlas.


Lukas Werther (Universität Jena, Co-Applicant):
Partners: A. Mikdad (INSAP), F. Nekkal (INSAP), C. Zielhofer (Leipzig University), Clemens Pasda (FSU Jena), Florian Schneider (FSU Jena)
Dauer: 2016-2017

Funding Institutions

» Programme Maroc-Allemand de Recherche Scientifique MULTIPP
» Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Anschubmittel des EU-Referentennetzwerkes