The Mediterranean Basin Hotspot is one of the most extraordinary places on Earth and is remarkable for both its high level of biological diversity and its spectacular scenery. Its location at the intersection of two major landmasses, Eurasia and Africa, and the huge topographical variety and altitudinal differences—from sea level to 4,165 meters in the west (Morocco) and 3,756 meters in the east (Turkey)—are major contributing factors to its biodiversity. The basin’s climate is unique, characterized by cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Nevertheless, rainfall ranges between 100 millimeters and 3,000 millimeters, making the region suitable for a wide range of vegetation types, and it is ranked as the third richest hotspot in the world in terms of its plant diversity. Approximately 13,000 of its 30,000 plant species are endemic, or unique, to the hotspot, and many more are being discovered every year.
The mammal fauna of the Mediterranean Basin includes more than 330 species. Of these, 87 are terrestrial mammals endemic to the hotspot, with rodents, shrews, moles and hedgehogs being the most numerous. The avifauna of the hotspot consists of 600 species, including 16 endemics. There are a significant number of species that migrate from Europe to Africa crossing the Mediterranean Basin at various points. There are 357 species of reptiles (including two species of marine turtle) of which 170 species are endemic. A total of 115 amphibian species occur in the basin, including 71 endemics. The freshwater fish in the region are derived from the rich faunas of Eurasia and Africa. Of the 400 species of freshwater fish in the hotspot, 253 are endemic.
In addition to its biological and geographic wonders, the region is a treasure trove of human history and culture. It is home to some of the world’s earliest civilizations and the world’s oldest sovereign state and first constitutional republic, San Marino, which dates back to 301 A.D. The first human civilizations (the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and the Nile Valley) occupied parts of the eastern Mediterranean Basin from around the fourth millennium B.C. The Mediterranean Sea gradually became both the central sea of Western civilization and the trade link to the riches of the East through the first millennium A.D. and the second half of the second millennium A.D. The residents of the region speak a multitude of languages, with the most common official language being Arabic.
The Mediterranean Basin Ecosystem Profile of CEPF was developed with broad stakeholder consultation between December 2008 and July 2010 under the leadership of Doğa (BirdLife in Turkey). The profiling team comprised 12 core nongovernmental organizations including BirdLife International and its partners in the region, Conservation International, IUCN, Plantlife International and Tour du Valat. All worked collaboratively to develop the profile and engaged more than 80 additional organizations. The ecosystem profile presents an overview of the hotspot, including its biological importance in a global and regional context, potential climate change impacts, major threats to and root causes of biodiversity loss, socioeconomic context and current conservation work in the region.
Recognizing that most species are best conserved through the protection of sites where they occur, the profile’s creators next pinpointed key biodiversity areas—sites important for the conservation of globally threatened species, restricted-range species, biome-restricted assemblages, or congregatory species—as targets for achieving site-level conservation outcomes. A total of 1,110 key biodiversity areas are identified in the profile, covering more than 40.7 million hectares, or approximately 19.5 percent of the land area of the hotspot (see map on p. 10). Of the total, 512 contain coastal or marine habitat, highlighting the importance of these sites for both terrestrial and marine conservation. In addition, 17 biodiversity conservation corridors were identified containing 435 of the key biodiversity areas. These corridors are essential for protecting the processes and links required to support threatened species, particularly in terms of long-term adaptation to climate change. The corridors are key to ensuring resilience of ecosystems so they can continue to provide essential services to natural and human communities, and they are considered most important for achieving long-term conservation results.
Photograph: © Ali İhsan Gökçen