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Routledge Handbook of Ecosystem Services

Print publication date:  January  2016
Online publication date:  January  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138025080
eBook ISBN: 9781315775302

10.4324/9781315775302-35

Abstract

The Mediterranean Basin is located across the south of Europe and the north of Africa. A key defining feature is the climate variability, with contrasting temperatures and rainfall conditions between winter and summer. These characteristics, together with the relatively irregular nature of precipitation, determine the high spatial-temporal variability of biophysical conditions that create a complex mosaic of ecosystems (Le Houérou, 2005). The transformation of landscapes by people, over more than three millennia, has promoted a high diversity of ecosystems as well as a high level of endemism and species richness (Myers et al., 2000). The anthropogenic transformation of ecosystems was the result of people adapting to the unpredictable and changing environment (Blondel et al., 2010). Thus, landscapes of the Mediterranean are characterized by the co-evolution of social and ecological system where original forests and scrublands have been transformed into a shifting mosaic of patches containing different states of maturity of forests and more or less intensively used croplands. Many of the cultural landscapes resulting from this co-evolutionary process are highly multifunctional (Blondel et al., 2010). Overall, the Mediterranean Basin is widely recognized as one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots, being home to almost 10% of the vascular plants and 3% of the planet’s terrestrial vertebrates (Myers et al., 2000). This high level of endemism and species diversity both characterizes its uniqueness and makes it vulnerable to drivers of change, such as the effects of climate (e.g., the extent, intensity and frequency of fire events and droughts), land-use change (e.g., urbanization, agriculture intensification or land-abandonment) or the introduction of alien species (Cuttelod et al., 2008).