Palynological evidence from a sub-alpine marsh of enhanced Little Ice Age snowpack in the Marrakech High Atlas, North Africa

Benjamin Bell, William Fletcher, Philip Hughes, Henk Cornelissen, David Fink, Ali Rhoujjati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The grazing lands of the High Atlas are vulnerable to climate change and the decline of traditional management practices. However, prior to the mid-20th century, there is little information to examine historical environmental change and resilience to past climate variability. Here, we present a new pollen, non-pollen palynomorph (NPP) and microcharcoal record from a sub-alpine marsh (pozzine) at Oukaïmeden, located in the Marrakech High Atlas, Morocco. The record reveals a history of grazing impacts with diverse non-arboreal pollen assemblages dominant throughout the record as well as recurrent shifts between wetter and drier conditions. A large suite of radiocarbon dates (n = 22) constrains the deposit to the last ~ 1,000 years although multiple reversed ages preclude development of a robust age-depth model for all intervals. Between relatively dry conditions during the Medieval period and in the 20th century, intervening wet conditions are observed, which we interpret as a locally enhanced snowpack during the Little Ice Age. Hydrological fluctuations evidenced by wetland pollen and NPPs are possibly associated with centennial-scale precipitation variability evidenced in regional speleothem records. The pollen record reveals an herbaceous grassland flora resilient against climatic fluctuations through the last millennium, possibly supported by sustainable collective management practices (agdal), with grazing indicators suggesting a flourishing pastoral economy. However, during the 20th century, floristic changes and increases in charcoal accumulation point to a decline in management practices, diversification of land-use (including afforestation) and intensification of human activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-66
Number of pages18
JournalVegetation History and Archaeobotany
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Alpine ecology
  • Climate dynamics
  • Mountain environment
  • Non-pollen palynomorphs
  • Pollen
  • Snow melt
  • Vegetation dynamics


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