Saving endemic plants in Tunisia
Conserving the Patrimonial Plants of Garâa Sejenane and Dar Fatma
Although published data for endemic plants in Tunisia and accessible databases are multiple, they are still contradictory in terms of their number, their nomenclature as well as their endemism status.
Many of these taxa are classified as SRE (strict endemic to a single site with a range <100km2). This status is one of the criteria used by IUCN for the identification of important plant areas (IPA). Some of these IPAs do not benefit from any protection status (national park, nature reserve) and even protected areas do not have any monitoring and conservation programs for their patrimonial plants, including endemic SREs.
In this context, the project SAVE PLANTS "Conserving the patrimonial plants of Garâa Sejenane and Dar Fatma" was developed by WWF North Africa in partnership with the Association for Sustainable Development Research in Action (REACT), in collaboration with the Faculty of Sciences of Tunis (FST) and the National Agronomic Institute of Tunisia (INAT) and supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). It aims to protect patrimonial species of two IPAs of the Kroumirie-Mogods region - North-West of Tunisia: the Garâa Sejenane and the Dar Fatma Nature Reserve.
These two IPAs are natural ecosystems characterized by an exceptional floristic biodiversity resulting in a high specificity and the presence of many rare species, endemic national or regional and / or recognized as threatened at the scale of North Africa. Although they do not benefit from any conservatory action directly carried out for the priority plant species which develop there, these sites keep today an exceptional conservatory value with a great richness in hydrophytes and patrimonial species, some of which are with strong conservation stakes.
Garâa Sejenane is Tunisia's largest natural freshwater wetland and has no legal protection at the national level. It is home to (i) Rumex tunetanus, a strict endemic (SER) of the Garâa Sejenane and considered CR in North Africa by IUCN (Garcia et al., 2010), (ii) Pilularia minuta and Elatine macropoda, threatened species at the scale of North Africa, respectively EN and LC and very rare in Tunisia (Garcia et al., 2010) and (iii) the unique Tunisian locality of Crassula vaillantii, Mibora minima, Persicaria amphibia and Chara braunii (Rouissi et al., 2016, Muller et al., 2017).
The Dar Fatma Nature Reserve (Ain Drahem) is home to some of the rarest bryophytes in the Maghreb, such as Sphagnum auriculatum and Aulacomnium palustre (Muller et al., 2010). It is one of the very few sphagnum peat habitats and also hosts very rare species nationwide as Anagallis tenella and species ranked NT in the IUCN Red List for North Africa (Garcia et al., 2010): Anagallis crassifolia, Baldellia ranunculoides, Eleocharis multicaulis , Potamogeton polygonifolius and 2 endemics of the Maghreb: Bellis prostrata and Solenopsis bicolor.
The project focuses on:
- Monitoring and conservation of SRE and / or threatened plants (CR, EN, VU) of the two ZIPs through the development and implementation of an in & ex situ conservation protocol (production of data sheets of propagation tests, making herbaria and a collection of seeds).
- The update of the management plan of the Dar Fatma nature reserve and the development of a charter for the monitoring of the conservation management of the patrimonial plants of Garâa Sejenane involving all the actors of the site as well as a file for the classification of the Garâa as the first private Ramsar site in Tunisia.
- Sensitization and capacity building of a new generation of botanists in Tunisia by the initiation of young doctoral students to the development of project for the conservation of plants and young students in botany through Flora Week (camps of a week at the Oued Zen National Park: systematic, herbarium preparation, use of databases etc) and the training and information of protected area managers to introduce patrimonial plant monitoring and conservation programs in the management plan of their protected area in Tunisia.