Mediterranean Basin 

A Raso lark (Alauda razae). This species of bird is found in Cape Verde off the west coast of Africa.
© Chris Batty
 

The flora of the Mediterranean Basin is dramatic. Its 22,500 endemic vascular plant species are more than four times the number found in all the rest of Europe; the hotspot also supports many endemic reptile species.

As Europe's vacation destination, populations of threatened species are increasingly fragmented and isolated to make way for resort development and infrastructure. The Mediterranean monk-seal, the barbary macaque and the Iberian lynx, which is Critically Endangered, are among the region's imperiled species.

VITAL SIGNS

Hotspot Original Extent (km²) 2,085,292
Hotspot Vegetation Remaining (km²) 98,009
Endemic Plant Species 11,700
Endemic Threatened Birds 9
Endemic Threatened Mammals 11
Endemic Threatened Amphibians 14
Extinct Species† 5
Human Population Density (people/km²) 111
Area Protected (km²) 90,242
Area Protected (km²) in Categories I-IV* 28,751
†Recorded extinctions since 1500. *Categories I-IV afford higher levels of protection.

OVERVIEW

The largest of the world's five Mediterranean-climate regions, the Mediterranean Basin stretches west to east from Portugal to Jordan and north to south from northern Italy to Morocco. Surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, the hotspot's 2,085,292 km² also include parts of Spain, France, the Balkan states, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria, as well as around five thousand islands scattered around the Mediterranean Sea. West of the mainland, the hotspot includes the Macaronesian Islands of the Canaries, Madeira, the Selvages (Selvagens), the Azores, and Cape Verde.

The basin's location at the intersection of two major landmasses, Eurasia and Africa, has contributed to its high diversity and spectacular scenery. The region boasts mountains as high as 4,500 meters, peninsulas, and one of the largest archipelagos in the world. The climate of the Mediterranean Basin is dominated by cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers, and rainfall ranges from as little as 100 millimeters to as much as 3,000 millimeters.

Although much of the hotspot was once covered in evergreen oak forests, deciduous and conifer forests, eight thousand years of human settlement and habitat modification have distinctly altered the characteristic vegetation. Today, the most widespread vegetation type is hard-leafed or sclerophyllus shrublands called maquis or matorral, which include representatives from the plant genera Juniperus, Myrtus, Olea, Phillyrea, Pistacia, and Quercus. This vegetation is similar in appearance to the chaparral vegetation of California and the matorral of Chile. Some important components of Mediterranean vegetation (species of the genera Arbutus, Calluna, Ceratonia, Chamaerops, and Larus) are relicts from the ancient forests that dominated the Basin two million years ago. Frequent burning of maquis results in depauperate vegetation dominated by Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera), Cistus spp. or Sarcopoterium spinosum, all of which regenerate rapidly after fire by sprouting or mass germination. Shrublands, including maquis and the aromatic, soft-leaved and drought phrygana of Rosmarinus, Salvia, and Thymus, persist in the semi-arid, lowland, and coastal regions of the Basin.

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