MEDITERRANEAN FOREST: Characteristics, Flora and Fauna

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The Mediterranean forest is a type of forest that, despite its dry appearance, is home to a very high biodiversity, which is why it deserves special protection measures. In addition, it has important relationships with other biotopes, such as dehesas areas.

We invite you to continue reading this article by Ecologist Verde on the Mediterranean forest, its characteristics, flora and fauna, if you want to know more about the animals and plants of this ecosystem.

What is the Mediterranean forest

The Mediterranean forest It's one of the forest types that there is and that is very characteristic of areas with temperate mediterranean climate, with high temperatures, great differences between seasons and abundant rains in spring and winter (very low the rest of the year, and then it is an arid climate). This forest is very characteristic of the Mediterranean Sea basin, although it is also found in other areas of the world, such as California or Chile.

The Mediterranean forest is semi-deciduous (that is, it has evergreen and deciduous plants), presenting a large number of marchescent species, or species whose leaves die in winter but remain attached to the trunk for a time. This type of vegetation makes good use of the available water, and serves as a support for the rest of the organisms.

Mediterranean forest: main characteristics

Next, we will see the main characteristics of the Mediterranean forest:

  • As we have already mentioned, the Mediterranean forest is adapted to long periods of drought with occasional contributions of rain. It is therefore that vegetation is xerophilous, that is to say, it is adapted to the lack of water. Within these adaptations, it is common to find highly lignified stems and leaves with little surface area, which avoid unnecessary water loss. Some plants are pyrophilic, that is to say, they are adapted to suffer fires, since they are frequent in these zones. For example, cork oaks have thick barks that protect the interior of the trunk, and rockrose cover their seeds in receptacles that explode in the heat, thus contributing to their dispersal.
  • They are ecosystems of low productivity, due to the lack of water. However, they are home to a large number of animal species: there are abundant herbivorous animals such as field mice, rabbits, roe deer and wild boars, which in turn serve as the basis for carnivorous animals, as a large number of raptors, both diurnal and nocturnal, and mammals of medium and large size, such as foxes and wolves.
  • It is in close coexistence with other ecosystems, such as the meadows, where we can find typical species of the Mediterranean forest surrounded by herbaceous species, or riverside ecosystems, which form corridors along the waterways.
  • They are characterized by having fairly thin soils, in which we find the bedrock at a shallow depth. Because of this, they are especially vulnerable to desertificationSince, due to the lack of vegetation, the abundant rains concentrated in short periods are capable of carrying away a significant proportion of the soil. Learn more about Desertification, its definition, causes and consequences.
  • Due to anthropic action, they are ecosystems with a high degree of fragmentation, which hinders the genetic exchange of the species.

Mediterranean forest flora

In this section we will see some mediterranean forest plants. We must distinguish tree species, which form the forest canopy (or upper part), and shrub and herbaceous species, which make up the understory or lower part.

Mediterranean forest trees

As for the trees in the Mediterranean forest, we find:

  • Gender Quercus: in this genus we find holm oaks (Quercus ilex), cork oaks (Quercus suber) or oaks (Quercus robur). Holm oaks produce the well-known acorns.
  • Gender Pinus: In this subsection we find various species of pines, such as the stone pine (Pinus pinea) or black pine (Pinus nigra) or Scots pine (Pinus silvestris). They are characterized by having needle-shaped leaves, which lose very little water. They are gymnosperm plants.

Herbaceous and shrubby plants of the Mediterranean forest

Regarding species of shrubby and herbaceous plants, we find some larger plants, such as rockrose (Cistus) and gorse (Broom), or shrubs of the genus Juniperus (Juniperus communis, Juniperus oxycedrus…), like smaller bushes, like thyme (Thymus), romeros (Rosmarinus), lavenders (Lavandula), thistles (Onopordum) … depending on the time of year, we can also find fennel, hemlock, poppy … in short, there is a great diversity of plants.

Mediterranean forest fauna

As to the fauna or animals of the Mediterranean forest, below we describe some of the most significant species:

  • Flies, grasshoppers, butterflies, wasps …: the Mediterranean forest is home to a spectacular number of species of insects of different taxa, which vary in abundance depending on the time of year.
  • Fieldmouse: They are rodents that, due to their versatility, are present in a large number of ecosystems. They are preferably herbivores, although they can eat small insects.
  • Rabbits and hares: rabbits and hares belong to the order of the lagomorphs and are very abundant in the Mediterranean forest areas and other parts of the interior.
  • Boars: their modified teeth allow them to search for tubers and roots in the forest floor.
  • Deer and roe deer: They feed on the tough shrubby species. They give rise to some spectacular phenomena, such as the so-called "bellowing".
  • Owls and Tawny Owls: These nocturnal birds of prey are specially adapted to hunt mice and other small animals.
  • Kites and eagles: kites and eagles are good examples of daytime raptors. These black raptors can feed on rabbits other species.
  • Foxes: foxes are very versatile, with reddish fur and a distinctive long tail.
  • Wolves: These large mammals have been on the brink of extinction in many areas. However, due to different conservation programs they are slowly increasing in number. If you want more information, we recommend this other article by Green Ecologist on Why is the Iberian wolf in danger of extinction.

If you want to read more articles similar to Mediterranean forest: characteristics, flora and fauna, we recommend that you enter our Ecosystems category.

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