Grasslands and Shrublands of the Mediterranean Region

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Abstract

The Mediterranean Region extends to the 1.6% of the world’s land surface and more than the half of the Mediterranean-type ecosystems of the world. The remarkable species richness in the Mediterranean Region mainly originates from an exceptional habitat diversity and the presence of several natural barriers facilitating the segregation and differentiation of local taxa and biocoenoses. In this article, we deal with the habitats characterized by grasslands and shrublands that clearly show the adaptations to what could be called “the Mediterranean syndrome”, i.e., the intrazonal Mediterranean grasslands and shrublands (MG&S). The main driving forces of the adaptive radiation and high biodiversity that characterize the MG&S are geographical segregation and appearance of new lands, climatic variability, substrate heterogeneity, species-specific plant- animal interactions and short generation times. MG&S are of paramount importance for delivering a wide array of ecosystem services. Apart from their importance for the maintenance of biodiversity, they play a major role in providing high quality forage for both livestock and wild animals; they support communities of insects with major roles in the ecosystem services of control and pollination; they sustain apiculture, and contribute to the prevention of erosion processes and maintenance of the water cycle; they buffer the negative impacts from fertilizers and pesticides and display highly significant aesthetic and recreational values. However, major threats to the provision of ecosystem services mostly originate from climate change, and recent land use changes (such as: “coastalization,” unbalanced grazing activities and abandonment of traditional practices). To mitigate the adverse effects of land use changes, the management of MG&S may be based on four principles; (a) ecosystem sustainability, (b) natural regeneration, (c) multifunctionality, and (d) protection.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteEncyclopedia of the World's Biomes
Pagine638-655
Numero di pagine18
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2020

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