Mediterranean Forest – Concept, flora, fauna, relief and climate

We explain what the Mediterranean forest is, its flora, fauna, relief, climate and other characteristics. Also, where is it located.

Mediterranean forest
The Mediterranean forest is an arid, wooded and scrub biome.

What is the Mediterranean forest?

A Mediterranean forest, durisilva or Mediterranean scrub is called a wooded and scrub biome prevalent in regions with a Mediterranean climate, that is, a climate similar to that of the vicinity of the European sea of ​​the same name.

These types of forests date from very ancient times, and have survived the formation events of the Mediterranean region (from the Sea of ​​Tethys in the Mesozoic period). On the other hand, they also resisted human intervention, which has played an important role in shaping their biocenosis.

However, the Mediterranean forest is highly sensitive to desertification, if the vegetation layer is destroyed, since it is a type of arid biome, with xerophilous vegetation (adapted to the dry environment) and little biodiversity.

Currently, there are numerous initiatives to protect these forests, also threatened by climate change, the results of which, however, do not seem very encouraging: a growth of just 2% between 2010 and 2015, according to UN figures.

Mediterranean forest location

mediterranean forest mallee australia
Mallee forests are Mediterranean forests found in Australia.

The Mediterranean forests are distributed, in the world, in five climatic regions located on the western façade of different continents. These regions are:

  • The endorheic basin. Around the Mediterranean Sea, between southern Europe, North Africa and the western Middle East.
  • The Californian chaparral. Located in the state of California in the United States.
  • The Chilean scrub. On the western coast of South America and in central Chile.
  • The South African fynbos. Located in the Cape region.
  • The mallee. Southwest and South Australia.

Characteristics of the Mediterranean forest

It is a xerophilous forest, with woody, aromatic and thorny undergrowth. It contains a modest number of plant species and a very marked tendency towards desertification, either as a consequence of the destruction of the vegetal layer or by the erosive action of rain on the soil.

Plant species are adapted to fire, recurrent in the summer drought. For this reason, they have very thick and resistant bark with which to shelter, as well as leaves covered with wax to prevent the loss of water during the warm months.

Mediterranean forest fauna

mediterranean forest lynx
The lynx is one of the predators of the Mediterranean forest.

In the mediterranean forest there is an animal diversity adapted to the climatic conditions and the plants available as food. As in other forests, insects are the largest and most successful animal group, supporting a food chain that includes raptors, small rodents, squirrels, hares, and small reptiles.

There are also larger predators such as the lynx (especially the Iberian lynx), foxes, eagles and wolves. There are also herbivorous animals such as the mountain goat. Amphibians abound and many species of birds such as jay, crossbill, blue tit or nightjar.

Mediterranean forest flora

mediterranean forest mastic
Trees adapted to aridity abound, such as the mastic.

In these woods evergreen predominate, like the oak, in the middle of xerophilous and sclerophyllous vegetation, adapted to summer aridity. Mastic, aladierno, many lianas such as sarsaparilla, and rockrose, rosemary and thyme are also abundant.

There are species that produce flowers, such as Aleppo pine and stone pine, juniper or strawberry tree, and in the most humid regions there is an abundance of gall oak and cork oak. When it undertakes the transition to other regions, it usually forms mixed forests with other leafy scrub species, or gallery forests.

Mediterranean forest relief

The mediterranean forest predominates in flat reliefs, plains, with the occasional mountain range and especially the valleys. The mountains around it are usually young, with relevant and highly populated plateaus.

Mediterranean forest climate

Mediterranean climate it is characterized by mild winters, warm autumns, rainy springs and dry summers, in which forest fires abound, to which the vegetation is adapted (pyrophilic vegetation).

On average, the temperature is kept above 20 ° C, presenting seasonal variations. Rainfall is not very abundant during the year, although it can exceed 1000mm in certain regions.

This type of climate is distinguished from both the coastal Mediterranean climate (close to water, more stable and humid), and the continental Mediterranean climate (drier and with greater thermal variations).