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Mediterranean forest: characteristics, flora and fauna

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 AgroCorrn article about the Mediterranean forest, its characteristics, flora and fauna , if you want to know more about the animals and plants of this ecosystem.

You may also be interested in: Mixed forest: characteristics, flora and fauna

What is the Mediterranean forest

The Mediterranean forest is one of the types of forests that exist and that is very characteristic of areas with a temperate Mediterranean climate , with high temperatures, large 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 marchescente 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 are going to 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 the vegetation is xerophilous , that is, 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, they are adapted to suffer fires, since they are frequent in these areas. For example, cork oaks have thick barks that protect the inside 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: herbivorous animals such as field mice, rabbits, roe deer and wild boars are abundant , which in turn serve as a basis for carnivorous animals , such 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. Due to this, they are especially vulnerable to desertification , since in the absence 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 makes the genetic exchange of species difficult.

Mediterranean forest flora

In this section we will see some plants of the Mediterranean forest . We must distinguish arboreal 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 trees in the Mediterranean forest we find:

  • Quercus genus : in this genus we find holm oaks ( Quercus ilex ), cork oaks ( Quercus suber ) or oaks ( Quercus robur ). Holm oaks produce the well-known acorns.
  • Genus Pinus : in this subsection we find various species of pines, such as the stone pine ( Pinus pinea ) or the black pine ( Pinus nigra ) or the 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 shrub and herbaceous plants , we find some larger plants, such as rockrose ( Cistus ) and broom ( Retama ), or shrubs of the genus Juniperus ( Juniperus communis , Juniperus oxycedrus …), such as smaller bushes, such as thyme ( Thymus ), rosemary ( 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 for 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.
  • Field mouse: 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.
  • Wild boars – Their modified teeth allow them to search for tubers and roots on the forest floor.
  • Deer and roe deer: they feed on the hard bush species. They give rise to some spectacular phenomena, like 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 a good example of diurnal raptors. These black raptors can feed on rabbits other species.
  • Foxes: foxes are very versatile, and have a reddish coat and a very characteristic 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 to learn more, we recommend this other AgroCorrn article on Why is the Iberian wolf in danger of extinction .

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