Mediterranean Forests, Woodlands and Scrub Ecoregions

Cork oak (Quercus suber) forest in El Feidja National Park, of the mountain forests of ... / ©: WWF-Canon / Michel GUNTHER
Cork oak (Quercus suber) forest in El Feidja National Park, of the mountain forests of Kroumerie-Mogod in north-west Tunisia, is the WWF hotspot in Tunisia.
© WWF-Canon / Michel GUNTHER
Mediterranean Forests, Woodlands, and Scrub ecoregions are characterized by hot and dry summers, while winters tend to be cool and moist. Most precipitation arrives during these months.
Only 5 regions in the world experience these conditions: the Mediterranean, south-central and southwestern Australia, the fynbos of southern Africa, the Chilean matorral, and the Mediterranean ecoregions of California. Although the habitat is globally rare, it features an extraordinary biodiversity of uniquely adapted animal and plant species, which can adapt to the stressful conditions of long, hot summers with little rain. Most plants are fire adapted, and dependent on this disturbance for their persistence.

All 5 Mediterranean-climate ecoregions are highly distinctive, collectively harboring 10% of the Earth’s plant species1). Phytogeographers consider the Fynbos as a separate floral kingdom because 68% of the 8,600 vascular plant species crowded into its 90,000 kilometer2 are endemic and highly distinctive at several taxonomic levels2).

In terms of species densities, this is equivalent to about 40% of the plant species of the United States and Canada combined, found within an area the size of the state of Maine (N. Myers, pers. comm.). The Fynbos and Southwest Australia shrublands have floras that are significantly more diverse than the other ecoregions, although any Mediterranean shrubland is still rich in species and endemics relative to other non-forest ecoregions3).

Biodiversity Patterns
Regional and local endemism is common, with some species with highly restricted ranges; high alpha and very high beta diversity, particularly in plants; specialization on soils is common.

Minimum Requirements
Blocks of natural habitat need to be large enough to sustain regular fire events such that unburned patches are left to act as source pools and refugia for vagile species; some species undertake seasonal movements in response to resource availability, thus diverse habitats and natural linkage habitats are important; riparian habitats critical for survival of many species.

Sensitivity to Disturbance
Natural communities are highly sensitive to habitat fragmentation, grazing, and alteration of fire regimes (overburning or fire suppression), native species are particularly at risk from exotic plants and animals that establish and spread with ease in these communities; restoration of communities is feasible but fire regimes must be restored and exotics controlled effectively.

In this habitat are the following ecoregions:

Afrotropical
(118) Fynbos

Australasia
(119) Southwestern Australia Forests and Scrub
(120) Southern Australia Mallee and Woodlands

Nearctic
(121) California Chaparral and Woodlands

Neotropical
(122) Chilean Matorral

Palearctic
(123) Mediterranean Forests, Woodlands and Scrub



1) Cody 1986, Kalin Aroyo et al. 1995, Picker & Samways 1995
2) Cowling et al. 1989, 1996, Cowling & Hilton-Taylor 1994
3) Cowling et al. 1996, Oosterbroek 1994

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required