Biodiversity Hotspot in Focus: The Mediterranean Basin

Considered as one of the “hottest hot spots”, the Mediterranean holds 10 percent of the world’s plants, even with only 1.6 percent area of the surface of the earth. Despite the diversity in plants, environmental issues surround the area. This makes the Mediterranean Basin an important area for conservation.
Most of the region’s area is covered with forests and shrubs. The growth and spread of the shrubs flourish with the hot arid climate where trees are able to give way to varieties of shrubs. This results in beautifully patterned mosaic landscapes.
Unlike most scenes pictured by many, the topography of the Mediterranean Region is not limited to ocean and beach images. The ever-changing landscape offers rocky shores, waterfronts, mountains and arid steppes.
Mediterranean Basin as a Biodiversity Hotspot
The Mediterranean Basin has been identified early on as one of the 18 original hotspots for biodiversity. It has a long history of integration between ecosystems and human activities. The two central areas for biodiversity are in the east where Turkey and Greece are found and the other in the west where the Iberian Peninsula and Morocco are found.

Threats in the hotspot are mainly the degradation and loss of habitat. The structures of forests are greatly affected by a combination of growing of crops, trees, and pasture/animals in the high altitude forests found in Morocco and northern Africa. Devastating environmental issues are causing an imbalance in the ecology. The migration of species is another problem that is occurring when natural habitats start to disappear. This imbalance can cause migrated animals to feed on endangered plant species in the region that further contributes to environmental problems.
Construction, overgrazing, and coastal infrastructure in the Mediterranean region are contributing to some of the harmful effects seen in the environment that are caused by humans. The Posidonia, a marine species of seagrass, are regularly found in the Mediterranean Sea and are suffering losses due to human activities. When the posidonia beds start to grow in a certain body of water, it’s a sign that the water quality is improving. Degradation of posidonia beds can have a large impact to the whole ecosystem. Aside from the loss of a home for many marine organisms, the coastline would lose its protection from sediments and coastal erosion.

The biggest threat to the Mediterranean Region is the expansion of agricultural lands by 67 percent. Agricultural activities tend to have a negative effect on the environment from deforestation to chemical fertilizers running off into bodies of water. The collection of firewood and lumber is fueling the problem of deforestation. Tourism is also fueling demand on lumber, thus speeding up environmental problems in the region.
Conservation Methods
Policies should be set to realize the priorities in addressing environmental issues in every country and region. This will ensure swifter action and maximize the available resources such as manpower and financing to help solve growing environmental problems.
Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by Jen SFO-BCN on Flickr.
Author Bio: John Tarantino is an active volunteer in the environmental movement in Portland, Oregon. He writes for The Environmental Blog and loves spreading green news to people who will listen.