The Mediterranean Basin is composed of five climatic regions covering more than 2 million km² from Portugal to Jordan and from Italy to Morocco. In addition to the countries mentioned above it includes, Spain, France, the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Algeria and Tunisia. It contains nearly 5,000 islands scattered in the Mediterranean Sea as well as in the Atlantic Ocean along the coastal strip of Portugal and Morocco (Azores, Madeira, Cape Verde, Canary Islands).
We can divide the Mediterranean's Basin into floral hotspot zones which alone represent 22% of the basin and include 47% of endemic species:
The Canaries / Madeira
Atlas Mountains in North Africa
Morocco's coast, Algeria and Libya
The Rif-Baetica in southern Spain
The Maritime Alps and Ligurian
The Tyrrhenian islands
Southern and central Greece / Crete
The southern Turkey / Cyprus / Israel / Lebanon
The position at the junction of two major tectonic plates: Africa and Eurasia forged a wide variety of landscapes and the altitude ranges from sea level to over 4.500m. Geological changes have resulted in steep areas, either by the sea or in the mountains. This allowed the endemic flora to find shelter. It should also be noted that during the various glacial periods, prior to the Würm glaciation, some10 and 20,000 years ago, the Mediterranean Sea was an insurmountable barrier. Thus, the basin's northern shores formed shelters from where certain species of plants have recolonized much of the continent.
The Sicilian Strait divides the Mediterranean into two basins, the Western and the Eastern. The Western basin absorbs the exchange of the water mass from the Atlantic Ocean having a major impact on its climate. Warm surface water from the Atlantic enters the Mediterranean's Basin while the cold waters, with low salinity, from the deep of the Mediterranean move to the Atlantic. Atlantic waters flow eastward through the Sicilian Channel into the eastern basin. This water comes back following the European coast with increasing salinity and temperature. Rainfall varies around the basin from 100mm to 3000mm.
Flora - A unique and threatened biodiversity.
The Biodiversity of the Mediterranean's Basin flora with about 30,000 species, including more than 13,000 endemic species, is exceptional. It offers 4 times more species than the rest of Europe combined.
Most of the basin was once covered in evergreen oak and coniferous forests. Millennia of human activities have significantly changed this characteristic vegetation. Many endemic plants depend on this anthropogenic habitat (def: effects due to human impact). Today, the maquis (sclerophyllous plants with leathery leaves) is the most widespread vegetation.
Three main types of vegetation can be distinguished:
Maquis: This is the main vegetation type in the region, characterized by shrubs with leathery leaves, mostly Cistus, Erica, Genista, Juniperus, Myrtus, Phillyrea, Pistacia and other evergreen plants. These vegetation types are generally derived from forests.
Forests: Forests have been largely converted to cropland or pasture since the beginning of civilization, some 8,000 years ago. However, pine and deciduous forests exist over large areas in the north and east of the Mediterranean basin, particularly in the Taurus Mountains in Turkey. The rare cedar forests (Cedrus Libani) are restricted to the north-east, between the western Taurus Mountains in Turkey and Lebanon, mainly beyond an altitude of 1,000m.
Garrigue: This habitat is limited to semi-arid regions, low-lying and coastal basin and is maintained by grazing and fires. The species are aromatic taxa with drought-resistant leaves, mainly Rosmarinus, Salvia and Thymus.
Of the 22,500 species of vascular plants, 52% are found nowhere else in the world. Endemic species are mainly concentrated on the islands, peninsulas, rocky cliffs and mountain peaks, much less on the accessible plains.
The Mediterranean region is home to no less than 290 species of native trees including 201 endemic species. Some trees are emblematic like the Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus Libani), the Argan tree (Argania spinosa) and the date-Crest (Phoenix theophrasti). The only palm native to the Mediterranean, Phoenix theophrasti, is found only in Crete and in a specific region of Turkey.
Man's colonization in various forms goes back 8,000 years. The most significant impacts are: deforestation (for the creation of construction and agricultural zones), intensive grazing, fires and infrastructure development, especially along the coast. About 300 million people are currently living in the Mediterranean Basin. The rapid population growth and the mechanization of agriculture lead to big changes. Water shortages and desertification are serious problems in this area. The Mediterranean coast attracts 110 million visitors each year. The infrastructure necessary to accommodate them and the unfurling of the dunes and beaches are dramatically impacting the coastal areas.
Already 2,000 years ago the Romans and Greeks used to reserve areas for the protection of natural resources. The fact remains that protected areas are covering only 90,000km², which is 4.3% of the total area. It is not easy to achieve a good balance between biodiversity conservation and human development. This objective represents a real challenge. We quote the "Habitats" Directive of the European Union responsible for the creation of "Nature 2000" areas: " ... Regional cooperation programs are essential for the conservation of flora and fauna in the Mediterranean."
The Betic Rif in southern Spain
The Betic Cordillera is a mountain range in southern and south-eastern Spain, oriented in an ENE (east-northeast) direction. It stretches from the Gulf of Cádiz to the Cabo de la Nao. The Betic Cordillera was formed as a result of a complex interaction of the African plate with the European plate. The Betics are part of the Arc of Gibraltar, which also includes the Moroccan Rif, forming the western-end of the Alpine mountain-chain. They are metamorphosed rocks from the early Miocene (18 million years ago). The Betic Cordillera forms a floral hotspot. The flora of the Murcia region has about 2,500 endemic plants.
Cork Oak Forest (D) - National Alcornocales Park
This park has the largest cork-oak forest (Quercus suber) in the Iberian Peninsula. Hence its nickname "the kingdom of the cork-oak". The park is located between the Sierra de Grazalema and the tip of Tarifa, consisting of several medium altitude mountain ranges (ranging from a few hundred meters above sea level in the surrounding of Tarifa to 3,580ft at the Aljibe peak). The southern area is crossed by narrow fluvial valleys, a unique landscape in Europe. It harbours the vestiges of a vegetation dating back from the Tertiary period. The cork oak, in combination with the oak of Portugal or "Quejigo" (Quercus faginea subsp. faginea) forms precious forests which they share with other species such as the pontic rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum subsp. baeticum) and the wild olive (Olea oleaster). The cork oak forest is mixed with species such as Spanish heather (Erica lusitanica), laurel-leaved rockrose (Cistus laurifolius), laburnum of Spain (Genista hispanica) etc. These various vegetation formations are formed by very varied vegetation species, one of the largest examples and characteristics of the primitive Mediterranean forest.
Spanish Fir Forest (D) - Sierra Nevada PN
The Natural Park of Sierra Nevada (1989) covers an area of 432,000 acres, of which 212,221 acres are also National Park. It is situated between the provinces of Almería and Granada, in Andalusia, in Southern Spain. It was declared a Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO in 1986. The management of this protected area is complex because it supports many human activities.
The park is home to the highest peaks on the Iberian Peninsula (Mulhacén 11,424ft and Veleta 11,142ft). Fifteen of its peaks are over 9,900ft high. They separate the north side with an Atlantic climate from the southern slope with a Mediterranean climate.
What confers an extraordinary value on the Sierra Nevada, in addition to its grandiose landscape, are the numerous unique and endemic species of flora. Due to its altitude variation it can have up to five levels of vegetation. At higher altitudes, the vegetation gives way to the black pine (Pinus uncinata). These forests may contain sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) and the undergrowth is very similar to that of a beech forest. The Spanish fir (Abies pinsapo) is a genuine relic that has been preserved in some mountain ranges around Málaga and Cádiz. These trees are coming from the North African forests. They form dense and dark forests in very distinct enclaves. In any case, the Spanish fir is very common in high mountains areas (such as the Sierra de las Nieves, Sierra Bermeja and Sierra de Grazalema), what defines the entire mountain range of southern Spain.
Limestone cliffs (BCD)
Scrubland is present throughout the Mediterranean. In the south it is characterized by a multitude of plants and shrubs. It grows in symbiosis with its arid and challenging environment, either on the beachfront on limestone cliffs or in the hinterland on medium high mountains. This vegetation is the result of an accumulation over millions of years and is closely related to soil characteristics and to the original composition of the rock. This is the result of a superposition extending over millions of years. The soil will be composed successively of sediment, charcoal, volcanic rocks, white limestone from coral, clay and gypsum (hue and varied stratification according to fluctuations in depth). Cleared by erosion, the limestone that we see today forms cliffs on which among others rockroses, pincushion flowers, sages, rosemary and lavender grows.
This heritage is protected among other in the Ifrane National Park, which contains the most beautiful forests of the kingdom, including cedars, oaks, cork oaks and Aleppo pines. At the heart of the Middle Atlas Mountains, through a long vegetation zone, you will find, depending on the altitude and exposure, forests composed of carob trees, oaks, cedars, conifers and cedars (legendary trees and iconic species of the region). Lying on 309,000 acres and occupying almost all of the western portion of the Central Middle Atlas, is an area characterized by a relief of medium height mountains of limestone or dolomite with, locally, shale or volcanic rocks. It contains a diverse and original flora with over 1,015 species of plants (over 22% of all Moroccan flora).
Pines (A) - Acampada - Tamadaba
Pilancones PN (Gran Canaria) - Located in the municipality of San Bartolome de Tirajana, it covers 14,317 acres and plays an important role in protecting the soil and of water management. The pine forest is located on its peaks and forms a well preserved habitat. This park features species of great botanical interest like the Canary Island pine (Pinus canariensis), Canary Island spurge (Euphorbia canariensis), Canary Islands dragon tree (Dracaena draco) and savin juniper (Juniperus sabina).
Garajonay PN (Island of Gomera)
This park contains a dense forest composed of different plant species subject to the trade winds. The summits of the mountains are characterized by fairly dense fog with a strong moisture load. The fog is stopped by this forest and is essential to its survival in an island territory dominated by aridity. This evergreen laurel forest is called "Lauri-silva" because most tree species composing it have similar leaves to those of laurels. We find species like the Canary Island laurel (Laurus novocanariensis), Azores Laurel (Laurus azorica), Canary laurel (Apollonias barbujana), Azorean holly (Ilex perado), white wood (Picconia azorica) and stinkwood (Ocotea foetens). It covers an area of 9,884 acres (11% of the island). It is an relic subtropical forests which occupied much of Europe and North Africa some millions of years. This forest is composed of different forest types and features about 2,000 species of plants. It is considered as an authentic living fossil.
In our park you will find a group of southern atmospheres adapting to more or less arid and/or windy areas.
The garrigue or maquis are part of the undergrowth of pine forests. In our park, we regard these areas as forests, thickets and clearings. Emblematic trees are: Pines in their different varieties and the cedars of Lebanon. To reproduce the atmosphere, special attention will be paid to the soil composition because of the different needs of different plant species.
The Aleppo pine (Pinus alepensis) is confined to the western and central part of the eastern basin. Beautiful forests are found for example in the Taurus Mountains NP (Area C). These mountains stretch out over 348 miles, along the south coast of Turkey and the separate Central Anatolian steppe of the Eastern Mediterranean region. To the east are the mountains Amanos who played an important role in the formation of this region that is strongly influenced by the Mediterranean Sea. Between the Taurus mountains, cliffs (limestone) and the sea, we find a diversity of terrestrial and marine ecosystems. These contain a number of different habitats such as meadows above the tree line, hardwood forests, scrublands, riverbeds, lagoons, saltwater marshes, coastal-forests and dunes.
In Turkey a region caught our attention, Rize - Artvin (zone 3-5), part of the reserve Camili, known as the first Turkish biosphere. This is one of the cradles of the post-glacial forests in Europe. The region is an important reliquary with many plant species that are the remains of an ancient Mediterranean flora such as the silkvine (Periploca graeca), sage-leaved rock-rose (Cistus salviifolius), the terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus), the European smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria) and Sicilian sumac (Rhus coriaria). This presence is explained largely because the Caucasus was spared from the effects of the glacial retreat in the last ice-age. We conducted our research in other regions in Turkey as well with parks such as Aladaglar Miliparki (zone C), Kaçkar Daglari, Igneada Langoz (zone 12) and Ormanlari milipark (zone 12).
The Calabrian pine (Pinus Brutia) occupies the eastern region including Syria and Aleppo. Pines of Calabria exist mainly in medium altitude regions (500 to 900m), the most beautiful stands are located in the northwest of Syria in the region of Froulok but also in Crete in the Samaria NP (zone B). Forests in southern Greece and Crete are composed of 20% pines (Pinus alepensis, Pinus brutia, Pinus Sylvestri and Pinus nigra). The common cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) is also abundant in the supra-Mediterranean floors of Crete.
The Libanon cedar (Cedrus libanii) has gained considerable importance in the forestry world around the Mediterranean. In these regions we must distinguish the indigenous cedar forests that remained after the Quaternary glaciation. Thus we encounter Atlas cedar stands (Cedrus atlantica) in North Africa, Morocco and Algeria; Lebanon Cedar (Cedrus libani) (6) in Asia Minor, Lebanon and Turkey and Cyprus cedar (Cedrus brevifolia) in Cyprus. Cedars existed north of the Mediterranean at the time of the Mio-Pliocene, before moving to the South of the Mediterranean vegetation, as shown by pollen analysis of sediments.
The forests of Mount Meron (zone C) as well as that of Mount Carmel in Israel are also representative of the Mediterranean forest landscapes. Mount Meron is located north east of Lake Tiberias. Mount Carmel south of the city of Aïfa is integrated in a natural reserve of 148,263 acres where the Mediterranean forest is rigorously protected.
We did not want to deal with areas close to our region, because beautiful parks, reserves and natural areas are already available to be visited. We selected some areas which will allow you to discover certain specific features or to enjoy the beautiful landscapes from Barcelona to Tuscany. If you want to know more.
The zone of the Western Mediterranean Basin will offer a golf course type Pitch & Putt. The course will provide an alternative route through the botanical garden. The golfers can combine the passion for this sport with discovering the botanical garden. Click here for more information about the golf