Reference: Gauquelin T, Michon G, Joffre R, Duponnois R, Génin D, Fady B, Bou Dagher-Kharrat M, Derridj A, Slimani S, Badri W, et al. (2016) Mediterranean forests, land use and climate change: a social-ecological perspective. Regional Environmental Change, 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-016-0994-3

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Abstract

Mediterranean forests are found in the Mediterranean basin, California, the South African Cape Province, South and southwestern Australia and parts of Central Chile. They represent 1.8 % of the world forest areas of which the vast majority is found in the Mediterranean basin, where historical and paleogeographic episodes, long-term human influence and geographical and climatic contrasts have created ecosystemic diversity and heterogeneity. Even if evergreen is dominant, deciduous trees are also represented, with different forest types including dense stands with a closed canopy (forests sensu stricto) and pre-forestal or pre-steppic structures with lower trees density and height. The Mediterranean basin is also a hot spot of forest species and genetic diversity, with 290 woody species versus only 135 for non-Mediterranean Europe. However, the characteristics of the Mediterranean area (long-standing anthropogenic pressure, significant current human activity and broad biodiversity) make it one of the world’s regions most threatened by current changes. Four examples of Mediterranean forest types, present in south and north of the Mediterranean basin and more or less threatened, are developed in order to show that linking “hard sciences” and humanities and social sciences is necessary to understand these complex ecosystems. We show also that these forests, in spite of specific climatic constraints, can also be healthy and productive and play a major ecological and social role. Furthermore, even if the current human activity and global change constitute a risk for these exceptional ecosystems, Mediterranean forests represent a great asset and opportunities for the future of the Mediterranean basin.