Relief Map of Morocco - 204K

Morocco covers an area of about 441,344 square miles, separated from Euorpe by the Straits of Gibraltar.  Agriculture forms an important part of the economy where cereals, rice, vegetables and vines are cultivated and the Berbers in the highlands raise camels, sheep and goats.  The wildlife is diverse, including wild boar and goat, baboon, foxes, rabbits, gazelles, panthers and many others including a number of snake species.

Morocco's coast is influenced both by the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It is neither too hot, nor too cold, usually averaging about 21 degress Centigrade. Temperatures inland can drop to zero degrees F in colder months, particularly in the mountainous areas of the Atlas and Rif ranges where often snow can be seen throughout the year.  Summers on the other hand can be extremely hot.  Rain tends to favour the north of the country, falling during the colder months while the southern areas, bordering the Sahara Desert receive very little rainfall and are bitterly cold in the winter.

Thorn trees and scrub are found in large numbers in the southern area of the country, whilst the flatlands are covered with alfa grass and more scrub.  Extensive forests do exist in the mountainous regions of Morocco and these contain a range of species such as cedar, fir, pine, juniper, oak and cork oak.

Plant and animal life

Outside the desert areas, the vegetation of Morocco resembles that of the Iberian Peninsula. Extensive forests are still found in the more humid mountainous areas, with cork oak, evergreen oak, and deciduous oak on the lower slopes and fir and cedar at higher elevations, particularly in the Middle Atlas. In drier mountain areas open forests of thuya, juniper, and Aleppo and maritime pine are common. East of Rabat is the extensive cork oak Mamora Forest. Eucalyptus, originally from Australia, was introduced by French authorities during the colonial period for reforestation.

Since independence, the Moroccan government has established several large plantations of this tree surrounding the Mamora Forest. In the rugged highlands south of Essaouira, vast open forests of argan (Morocco ironwood) are found. Unique to southwestern Morocco, this tree has a hard fruit that produces a prized cooking oil. In Morocco, as is common throughout the western Mediterranean region, centuries of human activity have considerably altered the natural vegetation.

On many lower mountain slopes, cutting, grazing, and burning the original vegetation have produced an often dense cover of maquis, or scrub growth, characterized by various associations of wild olive, mastic tree, kermes oak, arbutus, heather, myrtle, artemisia, cytisus, broom, and rosemary. In the arid interior plains, the dwarf palm, jujube tree, esparto grass, and Barbary fig (introduced from the Americas by way of Spain in the 16th century) cover vast areas. There is little natural vegetation in the desert areas east of the mountains, although the date palm, introduced to Morocco at a very early period, is extensively cultivated in the desert oases.

Large game has been progressively eliminated in Morocco since Roman times, when lions and elephants were still abundant. Both have long since disappeared. The gazelle is still seen occasionally in the south, as are the mouflon (a wild sheep) and fennec (a type of fox) in the Atlas region. With government protection, the macaco (a type of monkey, often called the Barbary ape) now flourishes in the forests of the Middle Atlas.

However, the richest fauna in Morocco today is the birdlife. Large migratory birds that sojourn in Morocco include the stork, which picturesquely builds its nests on city ramparts and mosque rooftops, and the flamingo, pelican, and cattle egret.

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