Facts about the Mediterranean Forests for Kids
Gathered by: S.Henniman
- Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub biome, as defined by the World Wildlife Fund, are characterized by dry summers and rainy winters.
- More specifically, it occurs in the world’s five Mediterranean climate zones, on the west coast of continents in the mid-latitudes: the Mediterranean Basin the Chilean Matorral the California chaparral and woodlands ecoregion of California and the Baja California Peninsula the Cape Province-Western Cape of South Africa the Southwest Australia corner area These regions are home to a tremendous diversity of habitats and species.
- Vegetation types can range from forests to woodlands, savannas, shrublands, and grasslands; “mosaic habitat” landscapes are common, where differing vegetation types are interleaved with one another in complex patterns created by variations in soil, topography, exposure to wind and sun, and fire history.
- All these ecoregions are highly distinctive, collectively harboring 10% of the Earth’s plant species. Phytogeographers consider the Fynbos (South-Africa) as a separate floral kingdom because 68% of the 8,600 vascular plant species crowded into its 35,000 sq mi are endemic and highly distinctive at several taxonomic levels.
- The Fynbos and Southwest Australia shrublands have flora 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 ecoregions.
- Major plant communities in this biome include: Forest: Mediterranean forests are generally composed of broadleaf trees, such as the oak and mixed sclerophyll forests of California and the Mediterranean region, the Eucalyptus forests of Southwest Australia, and the Nothofagus forests of central Chile.
- Savanna and grassland: The California Central Valley grasslands are the largest Mediterranean grassland eco-region, although these grasslands have mostly been converted to agriculture.
- In some places shrublands are the mature vegetation type, and in other places the result of degradation of former forest or woodland by logging or overgrazing, or disturbance by major fires.
- Fire, both natural and human-caused, has played a large role in shaping the ecology of Mediterranean ecoregions.
- In both the Australian and Californian Mediterranean-climate eco-regions, native peoples used fire extensively to clear brush and trees, making way for the grasses and herbaceous vegetation that supported game animals and useful plants.
- These regions are also some of the most endangered on the planet, and many eco-regions have suffered tremendous degradation and habitat loss through logging, overgrazing, conversion to agriculture, urbanization, and introduction of exotic and invasive species.
- The eco-regions around the Mediterranean basin and in California have been particularly affected by degradation due to human activity, suffering extensive loss of forests and soil erosion, and many native plants and animals have become extinct or endangered.