Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub

Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub is a biome defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature.[1] The biome is generally characterized by dry summers and rainy winters, although in some areas rainfall may be uniform. Summers are typically hot in low-lying inland locations but can be cool near colder seas. Winters are typically mild to cool in low-lying locations but can be cold in inland and higher locations. All these ecoregions are highly distinctive, collectively harboring 10% of the Earth's plant species.[2]

Biome map 12
Extent of Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub


Mediterranean forests 1
A Mediterranean forest, the Upper Galilee

The Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub biome mostly occurs in, but not limited to, the Mediterranean climate zones, in the mid-latitudes:[1]


Ephesos amphitheatre
Close up of Ephesos ancient Greek amphitheatre with a maquis shrubland

Vegetation types range from forests to woodlands, savannas, shrublands, and grasslands; "mosaic habitat" landscapes are common, where differing vegetation types are interleaved with one another in complex patterns created by variations in soil, topography, exposure to wind and sun, and fire history. Much of the woody vegetation in Mediterranean-climate regions is sclerophyll, which means 'hard-leaved' in Greek. Sclerophyll vegetation generally has small, dark leaves covered with a waxy outer layer to retain moisture in the dry summer months.

Phytogeographers consider the fynbos (South Africa) as a separate floral kingdom because 68% of the 8,600 vascular plant species crowded into its 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 sq mi) are endemic and highly distinctive at several taxonomic levels.[1][4] This is equivalent to about 40% of the plant species of the United States and Canada combined, found within an area the size of the state of Maine. The fynbos and Southwest Australia shrublands have flora that are significantly more diverse than the other ecoregions, although any Mediterranean shrubland is still rich in species and endemics relative to other non-forest ecoregions.[1][4]

Biome plant groups

Matorral Cerro Aconcagua
Springtime in Chilean Matorral a few kilometers north of Santiago along the Pan-American Highway

Major plant communities in this biome include:

  • Forest: Mediterranean forests are generally composed of broadleaf trees, such as the oak and mixed sclerophyll forests of California and the Mediterranean region, the Eucalyptus forests of Southwest Australia, and the Nothofagus forests of central Chile. Forests are often found in riparian areas, where they receive more summer water. Coniferous forests also occur, especially around the Mediterranean. Pine and deciduous oak forest are widespread across California.
  • Woodland: Oak woodlands are characteristic of the Mediterranean Basin and in California. Pine woodlands are also present in the Mediterranean Basin. California additionally has walnut woodlands.
  • Savanna and grassland: The California Central Valley grasslands are the largest Mediterranean grassland eco-region, although these grasslands have mostly been converted to agriculture. The remaining woodlands feature mainly oak, walnut and pine. The cork oak savanna in Portugal, known as montado, is a good example of a mediterranean savanna.
  • Shrubland: Shrublands are dense thickets of evergreen sclerophyll shrubs and small trees. They are most common near the seacoast, and are often adapted to wind and salt air from the ocean. They are called chaparral (California and southern Portugal), matorral in Chile and southern Spain, garrigue or maquis in France, macchia or gariga in Italy, phrygana in Greece, tomillares in Spain, fynbos and strandveld in South Africa, kwongan in Southwest Australia and batha in Israel. Northern coastal scrub and coastal sage scrub, also known as soft chaparral, occur near the California coast. In some places shrublands are of the mature vegetation type, and in other places are the result of degradation of former forest or woodland by logging or overgrazing, or disturbance by major fires.

Fire as a medium of change

Liebre Mountains 001
Scrubland of the Sierra Pelona Mountains, Southern California

Fire, both natural and human-caused, has played a large role in shaping the ecology of Mediterranean ecoregions.[5] The hot, dry summers make much of the region prone to fires, and lightning-caused fires occur with some frequency. Many of the plants are pyrophytes, or fire-loving, adapted or even depending on fire for reproduction, recycling of nutrients, and the removal of dead or senescent vegetation. In both the Australian and Californian Mediterranean-climate eco-regions, native peoples used fire extensively to clear brush and trees, making way for the grasses and herbaceous vegetation that supported game animals and useful plants.

The plant communities in these areas adapted to the frequent human-caused fires, and pyrophyte species grew more common and more fire-loving, while plants that were poorly adapted to fire retreated. After European colonization of these regions, fires were suppressed, which has caused some unintended consequences in these ecoregions; fuel builds up, so that when fires do come they are much more devastating, and some species dependent on fire for their reproduction are now threatened. The European shrublands have also been shaped by anthropogenic fire,[6] historically associated with transhumance herding of sheep and goats.


Sobreiros - Monchique - 04.11.2018
Mediterranean cork oak trees (Quercus suber) in Monchique, in the Algarve region of Portugal
Royal National Park NSW 2233, Australia - panoramio (23)
A dry sclerophyll woodland in Sydney

Mediterranean ecoregions are some of the most endangered and vulnerable on the planet. As such, many have suffered tremendous degradation and habitat loss through logging, overgrazing, conversion to agriculture, urbanization, fire suppression, and introduction of exotic and invasive species. The ecoregions around the Mediterranean basin and in California have been particularly affected by degradation due to human activity, suffering extensive loss of forests and soil erosion, and many native plants and animals have become extinct or endangered.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d  This article incorporates text available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license. World Wide Fund for Nature. "Mediterranean Forests, Woodlands, and Scrub Ecoregions". Archived from the original on 2011-04-01. Retrieved 2010-05-27.
  2. ^ Cody, M.L. (1986). "Diversity, rarity, and conservation in Mediterranean-climate regions". In Soulé, M.E. (ed.). Conservation biology. Massachusetts, USA. pp. 122–152.
  3. ^ "Sydney Coastal Dry Sclerophyll Forests". NSW Environment & Heritage. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Cowling, R.M.; MacDonald, I.A.W.; Simmons, M.T. (1996). "The Cape Peninsula, South Africa: Physiographical, biological and historical background to an extraordinary hot-spot of biodiversity". Biodiversity and Conservation. 5 (5): 527–550. doi:10.1007/bf00137608.
  5. ^ Gil-Tena, Assu; Aquilue, Nuria; Duane, Andrea; de Caceres, Miquel; Brotons, Lluis (2016). "Mediterranean fire regime effects on pine-oak forest landscape mosaics under global change in NE Spain". European Journal of Forest Research. 135 (2): 403–416. doi:10.1007/s10342-016-0943-1.
  6. ^ Casals, Pere; Valor, Teresa; Besalú, Arnau; Molina-Terren, Domingo (2016). "Understory fuel load and structure eight to nine years after prescribed burning in Mediterranean pine forests" (PDF). Forest Ecology and Management. 362: 156–168. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2015.11.050.

External links

Media related to Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub at Wikimedia Commons

Brenan Park

Brenan Park is an urban park situated in the western suburbs of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Primarily categorised as a sports field, the reserve contains an open grassland, bushland and recreational areas within the vicinity of native plants, such as eucalyptus trees. It is named after John Ryan Brenan, who founded the suburb of Smithfield in 1836. Artificially terraced, Brenan Park was established in the early 1980s and it is one of the largest reserves in the City of Fairfield.

California chaparral and woodlands

The California chaparral and woodlands is a terrestrial ecoregion of lower northern, central, and southern California (United States) and northwestern Baja California (Mexico), located on the west coast of North America. It is an ecoregion of the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub Biome, and part of the Nearctic ecozone.

Chilean Matorral

The Chilean Matorral (NT1201) is a terrestrial ecoregion of central Chile, located on the west coast of South America. It is in the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub biome, part of the Neotropic ecozone.

Matorral is typically characterized by a temperate Mediterranean climate, with rainy winters and dry summers. It is one of the world's five Mediterranean climate regions, which are all located in the middle latitudes on the west coast of continents. The Mediterranean Basin, the California chaparral and woodlands ecoregion of California and Baja California, the Cape Province of South Africa, and southwestern corner of Australia are the other Mediterranean climate regions.

Coastal sage scrub

Coastal sage scrub, also known as coastal scrub, CSS, or soft chaparral, is a low scrubland plant community of the California coastal sage and chaparral subecoregion, found in coastal California and northwestern coastal Baja California. It is within the California chaparral and woodlands ecoregion, of the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub biome.

Coolgardie (biogeographic region)

Coolgardie is an Australian bioregion and a World Wildlife Fund ecoregion consisting of an area of low hills and plains of infertile sandy soil in Western Australia.

Eyre Yorke Block

The Eyre Yorke Block is an interim Australian bioregion and a World Wildlife Fund ecoregion covering part of the Eyre Peninsula and all of Yorke Peninsula as well as land to its immediate east in South Australia.


Garrigue or phrygana (, Greek Φρύγανα) is a type of low, soft-leaved scrubland ecoregion and plant community in the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub biome.

It is found on limestone soils in southern France and around the Mediterranean Basin, generally near the seacoast where the moderated Mediterranean climate provides annual summer drought.The term has also found its way into haute cuisine, suggestive of the resinous flavours of a garigue shrubland.

Mallee (habit)

Mallee is the growth habit of certain eucalypt species that grow with multiple stems springing from an underground lignotuber, usually to a height of no more than 10 m (33 ft). It is most common in plants of the genus Eucalyptus, many of which naturally grow in a mallee habit, and some of which grow as single-stemmed trees initially, but recover in mallee form if burnt to the ground by bushfire. It also occurs in the closely related genera Corymbia and Angophora. The word "mallee" may also be used as a noun in reference to species or individual plants with a mallee habit.

Mallees are the dominant vegetation throughout semiarid areas of Australia with reliable winter rainfall. Within this area, they form extensive woodlands and shrublands covering over 250,000 km2 (97,000 sq mi). Thus, mallee woodlands and shrublands are considered one of Australia's major vegetation groups.Widespread mallee species include:

E. dumosa (white mallee)

E. socialis (red mallee)

E. gracilis (yorrell)

E. oleosa (red mallee)

E. incrassata (ridge-fruited mallee)

E. diversifolia (soap mallee)The malleefowl is a bird characteristic of this habitat.

An example of a mallee in a high-rainfall area is the rare yellow-top mallee ash, Eucalyptus luehmanniana.

Mallee Woodlands and Shrublands

Mallee Woodlands and Shrublands (MVG 14) is a Major Vegetation Group which occurs in semi-arid areas of southern Australia. The vegetation is dominated by mallee eucalypts which are rarely over 6 metres high. Other dominant plant genera are Melaleuca, Acacia and Hakea.The composition of the understorey depends on factors such as rainfall, soil composition as well as fire frequency and intensity. In subhumid areas, a variety of grasses and shrubs predominate, while in semi-arid areas hummock grasses (Triodia species) predominate.In 2001, the area covered by this vegetation group was estimated to be 65% of its pre 1788 coverage.The most extensive extant area of this group in Australia today is found in the Great Victoria Desert. Prior to 1788, the largest area occurred in the Murray-Darling basin.The Major Vegetation Subgroups for this group are:

Mallee with hummock grass

Mallee with a dense shrubby understorey

Mallee with an open shrubby understorey

Mallee with a tussock grass understorey.

Maquis shrubland

Maquis (French) or macchia (Italian: macchia mediterranea) is a shrubland biome in the Mediterranean region, typically consisting of densely growing evergreen shrubs.

Marmara Region

The Marmara Region (Turkish: Marmara Bölgesi) is a geographical region of Turkey.

Located in northwestern Turkey, it is bordered by Greece and the Aegean Sea to the west, Bulgaria and the Black Sea to the north, the Black Sea Region to the east, the Central Anatolia Region to the southeast and the Aegean Region to the south. At the center of the region is the Sea of Marmara, which gives the region its name.

Among the seven geographical regions, the Marmara Region has the second-smallest area, yet the largest population; it is the most densely populated region in the country.


Matorral is a Spanish word, along with tomillares, for shrubland, thicket or bushes. It is used in naming and describing a Mediterranean climate ecosystem in Southern Europe.

Mediterranean Acacia-Argania dry woodlands

The Mediterranean Acacia-Argania dry woodlands and succulent thickets is a Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub ecoregion in North Africa centered mainly on Morocco but also including northwestern Western Sahara and the eastern Canary Islands.

Mediterranean Basin

In biogeography, the Mediterranean Basin (also known as the Mediterranean region or sometimes Mediterranea) is the region of lands around the Mediterranean Sea that have a Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers, which supports characteristic Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub vegetation.

Murray Darling Depression

The Murray Darling Depression , also known as the Murray-Darling woodlands and mallee, is a biogeographic region and an ecoregion in southeastern Australia consisting of a wooded plain through which flow two of Australia's biggest rivers, the Murray and the Darling.


Renosterveld is a term used for one of the major plant communities and vegetation types of the Cape Floristic Region (Cape Floral Kingdom) which is located in southwestern and southeastern South Africa, in southernmost Africa. It is an ecoregion of the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub biome.


Sclerophyll is a type of vegetation that has hard leaves, short internodes (the distance between leaves along the stem) and leaf orientation parallel or oblique to direct sunlight. The word comes from the Greek sklēros (hard) and phyllon (leaf).

Sclerophyllous plants occur in many parts of the world, but are most typical in the chaparral biomes. They are prominent throughout western (Perth region), eastern (Sydney region) and southern (Adelaide region) parts of Australia, in the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub biomes that cover the Mediterranean Basin, Californian chaparral and woodlands, Chilean Matorral, and the Cape Province of South Africa.


A subshrub (Latin suffrutex) or dwarf shrub is a short woody plant. Prostrate shrub is a related term. "Subshrub" is often used interchangeably with "bush".Because the criteria are matters of degree rather than of kind, the definition of a subshrub is not sharply distinguishable from that of a shrub; examples of reasons for describing plants as subshrubs include ground-hugging stems or low growth habit. Subshrubs may be largely herbaceous, with overwintering perennial woody growth much lower-growing than deciduous summer growth. Some plants described as subshrubs are only weakly woody and some persist for only for a few years; others however, such as Oldenburgia paradoxa live indefinitely, rooted in rocky cracks.

Small, low shrubs such as lavender, periwinkle, and thyme, and many members of the family Ericaceae, such as cranberries and small species of Erica, are often classed as subshrubs.

Tyrrhenian-Adriatic sclerophyllous and mixed forests

The Thyrrenian-Adriatic Sclerophyllous and Mixed Forests Ecoregion, in the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub Biome, is in southern Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and the Dalmatian Islands.

See also

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