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Assessment of the effectiveness of wetland protection in improving waterbird diversity in a Moroccan wetland system

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Assessment of the effectiveness of nature conservation measures is a crucial step to ensure that the actions undertaken have achieved the expected results. Depending on the results of such evaluations, managers may need to reframe or even change their approaches. In this analysis, the effectiveness of establishing strictly protected areas was assessed in three important Moroccan Atlantic sites, namely Ad-Dakhla bay, Khnifiss lagoon, and Souss estuary. In particular, we investigated whether protection of these sites was followed by significant changes in the direction and/or strength of change in waterbird species richness and density over time. Our results showed that during the pre-protection period, waterbird species richness has been declining over time, while total waterbird density and the diversity of wading and open-water birds had been maintained at low levels. However, shortly after site protection, a rapid increase in these measures was observed, while there was no significant change in waterfowl species richness and density. Overall, these results suggest that the protection of these wetlands has been a watershed in the recent history of their birds, reversing the trends of a continuing decline towards rapid regeneration. This is one obvious signs of the success of the programme undertaken by the Moroccan authorities to conserve the biodiversity of these wetlands. Further investigations of the effects of protection at all wetlands throughout Morocco are needed to more profoundly understand the role of such conservation measures on shaping wintering waterbird communities.

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We thank the two anonymous reviewers and the Editor of Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Journal for commenting on an earlier version of the manuscript. This work complies with the current Moroccan laws as it is based on simple field observations without any experiment or prejudice to the animals studied.

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Correspondence to S. Hanane.

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Cherkaoui, S.I., Selmi, S., Amhaouch, Z. et al. Assessment of the effectiveness of wetland protection in improving waterbird diversity in a Moroccan wetland system. Environ Monit Assess 190, 699 (2018).

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