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Journal of Arid Land  2018, Vol. 10 Issue (4): 561-573    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-018-0095-x
Orginal Article     
Rainfall patterns of Algerian steppes and the impacts on natural vegetation in the 20th century
BELALA Fahima1,*(), HIRCHE Azziz1,2, D MULLER Serge3, TOURKI Mahmoud4, SALAMANI Mostefa1, GRANDI Mohamed1,5, AIT HAMOUDA Tahar6, BOUGHANI Madjid1
1 Laboratory of Plant Ecology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Sciences and Technology Houari Boumediene, Wilaya 16000, Algeria
2 Scientific and Technical Research Center on Arid Regions, Biskra 7000, Algeria
3 Institute of Evolutionary Sciences, University of Montpellier-CNRS, Montpellier 34095, France
4 Department of Hydraulics, University of Badji Mokhtar, Annaba 23000, Algeria
5 Faculty of Nature Sciences, University of Saad Dahlab, Blida 9000, Algeria
6 Faculty of Sciences, University of Yahia Farès, Wilaya 26000, Algeria
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Since 1960, the steppe regions of North Africa have been subject to an increasing desertification, including the degradation of traditional pastures. The initially dominant species (Artemisia herba-alba, Lygeum spartum and Stipa tenacissima) declined and were progressively replaced by other species (Atractylis serratuloides and Salsola vermiculata) that are more tolerant to the new conditions. It is not clear whether these changes are due to anthropogenic reasons or climatic determinism. We have carried out a statistical analysis of the climate to detect putative rainfall changes during the 20th century in the Algerian steppes based on data from 9 meteorological stations, including 2 Saharan stations (El Oued and Touggourt), 3 pre-Saharan stations (Biskra, Laghouat and Ain Sefra) and 4 steppe stations (Djelfa, Saida, Méchéria and El-Bayadh) located in the arid high plains, which represent the bioclimate diversities of the region. Previous studies suggested that significant rainfall changes for the 20th century only had records in the south of the Oran region. Most of the studies, however, looked at restricted territories over limited periods, and did not integrate the rainiest period 2004-2014. Our work is designed to integrate all the longest time series of meteorological data available for the steppe regions of Algeria. Our results confirm the spatial rainfall distribution (significant rainfall changes only recorded in the southwestern region) evidenced by previous studies, and reveal a decreasing rainfall gradient from northeastern to southwestern Algeria. Moreover, the results reveal a trend of significant decrease of rainfall in the southern Oran region, marked by two drought periods in 1980-1985 and 1999-2003. However, with the exception of the southwestern region, rainfall overall has not declined since the beginning of the 20th century. While less marked in other regions, the drought appear to have affected all territories of the Algerian steppe. Consequently, our study implies that the climate was not a leading influence in the on-going degradation of the vegetation cover of steppe landscapes. Such a vegetation evolution thus appears to be have been determined more by human activities than by climate forcing.

Key wordsclimate      arid and semi-arid regions      drought      rangeland degradation      human impact      North Africa     
Received: 26 October 2017      Published: 10 August 2018
Corresponding Authors: BELALA Fahima     E-mail:
Cite this article:

BELALA Fahima, HIRCHE Azziz, D MULLER Serge, TOURKI Mahmoud, SALAMANI Mostefa, GRANDI Mohamed, AIT HAMOUDA Tahar, BOUGHANI Madjid. Rainfall patterns of Algerian steppes and the impacts on natural vegetation in the 20th century. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(4): 561-573.

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