Unsustainable farming techniques have been used in the region for years, leading to erosion, salinization, land degradation, and desertification in many areas. For example, in Greece, 30% of the country land has been declared as being under threat, and Portugal faces a moderate risk of desertification.
It has been recognised that the natural cycle of forest fire and regeneration leads to transition habitats that can be of significant value for their biodiversity, as well as for their function as a natural laboratory for evolutionary studies. In addition, forests have always played, and continue to play, an important role in the daily life of the Mediterranean peoples, maintaining key ecosystem components and securing human welfare and life in the region.
During the past decades, the exploitation of the natural landscape was long, slow and relatively sustainable, however the balance between nature and humankind has been lost. Nowadays, forests are fragile and are under higher threat due to agricultural intensification, fires, over-grazing, and climate change, which have lead to forest loss and degradation in many countries.
Islands of biodiversity
This biodiversity hotspot which experiences low rainfall, forms the ideal environment for the adaptation of Mediterranean species, and the rise of a high endemism. The Mediterranean comprises one of the largest groups of islands and islets in the world, with almost 5,000 islands, the most of them of less than 10 km2 in area.
However, if we have to choose a good reason for the Mediterranean’s high biodiversity, it would be its plants. The number of flowering plants and ferns native to the countries surrounding the Mediterranean basin is between 15,000 and 25,000, and 60% of them are restricted to the Mediterranean.
As a result of a long history of isolation, and tolerance of various kinds of disruptions, the ancient species of continental plants have remained untouched in the Mediterranean islands, and new species have had the chance to evolve at the same time. Furthermore, human movements between the islands and the mainland, as well as between the islands themselves, together with the dispersal of seeds by birds, have favoured the colonisation of new areas by distant species.