WWF Mediterranean Programme
and WWF Italy
have helped in the initial stages of a vulnerability assessment for Mediterranean forests.
The Mediterranean has been identified as one of the most important regions in the world for its outstanding biodiversity features.
Mediterranean forests, situated in a transitional zone between the European, African and Asian continents, are one of the planet’s centers of plant diversity, with 25,000 floral species representing 10% of the world’s flowering plants on just over 1.6% of the earth’s surface. Mediterranean populations of species with a Pan-European distribution, such as fir, beech, pine and spruce, are often characterized as the most variable in terms of genetic diversity.
Moreover, the forests of the Mediterranean region are essential to maintaining water and soil resources. The forests protect watersheds and regulate the local climate by increasing the air humidity and thereby reducing the intensity of drought. In this way, they are a barrier against desertification. The forests also serve as natural barriers to storms and floods and they have considerable water retention capacity that reduces run-off and landslides during periods of heavy rain.
However, climate change threatens to undo these ecosystem services that Mediterranean forests currently provide.
Increasing temperature, changes in precipitation patterns (notably, the projected massive summer drying), will likely lead to decreased tree growth, increased fire, insect, and disease outbreaks throughout the Mediterranean region. These impacts will greatly affect regional cork production, which is a major industry in the region.
To assess these climate change impacts, WWF proposes to implement a region-wide vulnerability assessment, which will identify the places that are at highest risk, quantify the projected impacts, and formulate viable adaptation strategies.