Mediterranean Region

Mediterranean region

Here I very briefly describe Mediterranean lowland forests in their supposed natural conditions.

Mediterranean lowland forests show fundamentally different characteristics from temperate mesic forests, due to the high drought-stress Mediterranean forests experience during the summer and resulting fire disturbance1. Herbaceous vegetation dries out during the summer, the main growing seasons being spring and autumn2. Many species are capable of growing through the mild winters3. Similar climates exist at the same latitudes on the western sides of the other continents: California, Chile, South Africa, and southwestern and southern Australia.

Mediterranean climate at Californian coast: Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) forest in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

The lowlands are dominated by evergreen broadleaf trees, e.g. holly oak (Quercus ilex), cork oak (Q. suber), carob (Ceratonia siliqua), olive (Olea europaea), and various pines, e.g. Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), Turkish pine (P. brutia), maritime pine (P. pinaster) and stone pine (P. pinea) 2. Particularly at slightly higher elevations, there are also deciduous oaks, e.g. downy oak (Q. pubescens), Turkey oak (Q. cerris), Portuguese oak (Q. faginea) and Algerian oak (Q. canariensis), the latter two only on the Iberian Peninsula2.

Deciduous Turkey oak grove in Montenegro at 700 m elevation

Well-developed Mediterranean oak forest, very rare today, may be dense, shady, and more than 20 m tall. If the canopy is more open, the shrub layer is rich; common species, many of which may also become low trees, include strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), Greek strawberry tree (Arbutus andrachne, only in the east), laurustinus (Viburnum tinus), Evergreen Honeysuckle (Lonicera implexa), mastic (Pistacia lentiscus), terebinth  (Pistacia terebinthus), narrow-leaved mock privet (Phillyrea angustifolia), mock privet (Phillyrea latifolia), Mediterranean buckthorn (Rhamnus alaternus), kermes oak (Quercus coccifera), scorpion senna (Hippocrepis emerus), butcher’s-broom (Ruscus aculeatus) and prickly juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus) 3. Lianas grow on tree trunks, e.g. evergreen rose (Rosa sempervirens), common ivy (Hedera helix) and fragrant virgin’s bower (Clematis flammula) 3. Plants have numerous adaptations to fires, like serotinous cones and fruits that are opened by heat, thick fire-resistant barks and the ability to form basal and root sprouts after fire. The Mediterranean is considered the third richest biodiversity hotspot in the world in terms of plant diversity4, with several glacial refugia5.

The mountain forests in the Mediterranean region resemble the forests in the temperate zone.

Beech forest at 1350 m elevation in Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park, Italy. In the foreground also one Italian maple (Acer opalus)



  1. Karavani, A. et al. (2018): Fire-induced deforestation in drought-prone Mediterranean forests: Drivers and unknowns from leaves to communities. Ecological Monographs 88, 141–169.
  2. Mayer, H. (1986): Europäische Wälder. Gustav Fischer.
  3. Polunin, O. & Walters, M. (1985): A guide to the vegetation of Britain and Europe. Oxford.
  4. Ecosystem Profile Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity Hotspot (2010). CEPF, Washington DC.
  5. Mansourian, S., Rossi, M. & Vallauri, D. (2013): Ancient Forests in the Northern Mediterranean: Neglected High Conservation Value Areas. WWF.