Physical and political map of the Mediterranean Basin
Potential distribution over the Mediterranean Basin of the olive tree
– one of the best biological indicators of the Mediterranean Region
The Mediterranean basin covers portions of three continents: Europe
, and Asia
It has a varied and contrasting topography. The Mediterranean Region offers an ever-changing landscape of high mountains, rocky shores, impenetrable scrub, semi-arid steppes, coastal wetlands, sandy beaches and a myriad islands of various shapes and sizes dotted amidst the clear blue sea. Contrary to the classic sandy beach images portrayed in most tourist brochures, the Mediterranean is surprisingly hilly. Mountains can be seen from almost anywhere.
By definition, the Mediterranean Basin extends from Macaronesia
in the west, to the Levant
in the east, although some places may or may not be included depending on the view, as it's the case with Macaronesia: some definitions only include Madeira
and the Canary Islands
while others include the whole Macaronesia (with the Azores
and Cape Verde
In Western Asia, it covers the western and southern portions of the peninsula of Anatolia, excluding the temperate-climate mountains of central Turkey. It includes the Mediterranean Levant
at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, bounded on the east and south by the Syrian
The northern portion of the Maghreb
region of northwestern Africa has a Mediterranean climate, separated from the Sahara Desert
, which extends across North Africa
, by the Atlas Mountains
. In the eastern Mediterranean the Sahara extends to the southern shore of the Mediterranean, with the exception of the northern fringe of the peninsula of Cyrenaica
, which has a dry Mediterranean climate.
Europe lies to the north of the Mediterranean, and three large Southern European
peninsulas, the Iberian Peninsula
, Italian Peninsula
, and the Balkan Peninsula, extend into and comprise much of the Mediterranean-climate zone. A system of folded mountains, including the Pyrenees
, the Alps
from Central Europe
, the Dinaric Alps
along the eastern Adriatic
, and the Balkan
mountains of the Balkan Peninsula divide the Mediterranean from the temperate climate regions of Western
or Northern Europe
, Central Europe
, and Eastern Europe
Geology and paleoclimatology
The Mediterranean Basin was shaped by the ancient collision of the northward-moving African–Arabian continent with the stable Eurasian continent. As Africa–Arabia moved north, it closed the former Tethys Sea
, which formerly separated Eurasia from the ancient super continent of Gondwana
, of which Africa was part. At about the same time, 170 mya in the Jurassic
period, a small Neotethys ocean basin formed shortly before the Tethys Sea was closed at the eastern end. The collision pushed up a vast system of mountains, extending from the Pyrenees
in Spain to the Zagros Mountains
. This episode of mountain building, known as the Alpine orogeny
, occurred mostly during the Oligocene
(34 to 23 million years ago (mya
)) and Miocene
(23 to 5.3 mya) epochs. The Neotethys became larger during these collisions and associated folding and subduction.
About 6 mya during the late Miocene, the Mediterranean was closed at its western end by drifting Africa, which caused the entire sea to evaporate. There followed several (debated) episodes of sea drawdown and re-flooding known as the Messinian Salinity Crisis
, which ended when the Atlantic last re-flooded the basin at the end of the Miocene.
Recent research has suggested that a desiccation-flooding cycle may have repeated several times 
during the last 630,000 years of the Miocene epoch, which could explain several events of large amounts of salt deposition. Recent studies, however, show that repeated desiccation and re-flooding is unlikely from a geodynamic
point of view.
The end of the Miocene also marked a change in the Mediterranean Basin's climate. Fossil evidence shows that the Mediterranean Basin had a relatively humid subtropical climate with summer rainfall during the Miocene, which supported laurel forests
. The shift to a Mediterranean climate occurred within the last 3.2–2.8 million years, during the Pliocene
epoch, as summer rainfall decreased. The subtropical laurel forests retreated, although they persisted on the islands of Macaronesia
off the Atlantic coast of Iberia and North Africa, and the present Mediterranean vegetation evolved, dominated by coniferous trees and sclerophyllous
trees and shrubs, with small, hard, waxy leaves that prevent moisture loss in the dry summers. Much of these forests and shrublands have been altered beyond recognition by thousands of years of human habitation. There are now very few relatively intact natural areas in what was once a heavily wooded region.
Flora and fauna
The Mediterranean Region was first proposed by German botanist August Grisebach
in the late 19th century.
The genera Aubrieta
are nearly endemic. Among the endemic species prominent in the Mediterranean vegetation are the Aleppo pine
, stone pine
, Mediterranean cypress
, bay laurel
, Oriental sweetgum
, holm oak
, kermes oak
, strawberry tree
, Greek strawberry tree
, common myrtle
, Acanthus mollis
and Vitex agnus-castus
. Moreover, many plant taxa
are shared with one of the four neighboring floristic regions only. According to different versions of Armen Takhtajan
's delineation, the Mediterranean Region is further subdivided into seven to nine floristic provinces
: Southwestern Mediterranean (or Southern Moroccan and Southwestern Mediterranean), Ibero-Balearian (or Iberian and Balearian), Liguro-Tyrrhenian, Adriatic, East Mediterranean, South Mediterranean and Crimeo-Novorossiysk.
- Scrublands occur in the driest areas, especially areas near the seacoast where wind and salt spray are frequent. Low, soft-leaved scrublands around the Mediterranean are known as garrigar in Catalan, garrigue in French, phrygana in Greek, tomillares in Spanish, and batha in Hebrew.
- Shrublands are dense thickets of evergreen sclerophyll shrubs and small trees, and are the most common plant community around the Mediterranean. Mediterranean shrublands are known as màquia in Catalan, macchia in Italian, maquis in French, and "matorral" in Spanish. In some places shrublands are the mature vegetation type, and in other places the result of degradation of former forest or woodland by logging or overgrazing, or disturbance by major fires.
- Savannas and grasslands occur around the Mediterranean, usually dominated by annual grasses.
- Woodlands are usually dominated by oak and pine, mixed with other sclerophyll and coniferous trees.
- Forests are distinct from woodlands in having a closed canopy, and occur in the areas of highest rainfall and in riparian zones along rivers and streams where they receive summer water. Mediterranean forests are generally composed of evergreen trees, predominantly oak and pine. At higher elevations Mediterranean forests transition to mixed broadleaf and tall conifer forests similar to temperate zone forests.
- Aegean and Western Turkey sclerophyllous and mixed forests (Greece, Turkey, North Macedonia, Bulgaria)
- Anatolian conifer and deciduous mixed forests (Turkey)
- Canary Islands dry woodlands and forests (Spain)
- Corsican montane broadleaf and mixed forests (France)
- Crete Mediterranean forests (Greece)
- Cyprus Mediterranean forests (Cyprus)
- Eastern Mediterranean conifer–sclerophyllous–broadleaf forests (Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Turkey)
- Iberian conifer forests (Spain)
- Iberian sclerophyllous and semi-deciduous forests (Portugal, Spain)
- Illyrian deciduous forests (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Slovenia)
- Italian sclerophyllous and semi-deciduous forests (France, Italy)
- Mediterranean acacia–argania dry woodlands (Morocco, Canary Islands (Spain))
- Mediterranean dry woodlands and steppe (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia)
- Mediterranean woodlands and forests (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia)
- Northeastern Spain and Southern France Mediterranean forests (France, Monaco, Spain)
- Northwest Iberian montane forests (Portugal, Spain)
- Pindus Mountains mixed forests (Albania, Greece, North Macedonia)
- South Apennine mixed montane forests (Italy)
- Southeastern Iberian shrubs and woodlands (Spain)
- Southern Anatolian montane conifer and deciduous forests (Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Turkey)
- Southwest Iberian Mediterranean sclerophyllous and mixed forests (Portugal, Spain)
- Tyrrhenian–Adriatic sclerophyllous and mixed forests (Croatia, France, Italy, Malta)
Map of the Mediterranean Basin's ecoregions. 1201: Aegean and Western Turkey sclerophyllous and mixed forests. 1202: Anatolian conifer and deciduous mixed forests. 1203: Canary Islands dry woodlands and forests. 1204: Corsican montane broadleaf and mixed forests. 1205: Crete Mediterranean forests. 1206: Cyprus Mediterranean forests. 1207: Eastern Mediterranean conifer-sclerophyllous-broadleaf forests. 1208: Iberian conifer forests. 1209: Iberian sclerophyllous and semi-deciduous forests. 1210: Illyrian deciduous forests. 1211: Italian sclerophyllous and semi-deciduous forests. 1212: Mediterranean acacia-argania dry woodlands and succulent thickets. 1213: Mediterranean dry woodlands and steppe. 1214: Mediterranean woodlands and forests. 1215: Northeastern Spain and Southern France Mediterranean forests. 1216: Northwest Iberian montane forests. 1217: Pindus Mountains mixed forests. 1218: South Apeninne mixed montane forests. 1219: Southeastern Iberian shrubs and woodlands. 1220: Southern Anatolian montane conifer and deciduous forests. 1221: Southwest Iberian Mediterranean sclerophyllous and mixed forests. 1222: Tyrrhenian-Adriatic sclerophyllous and mixed forests
inhabited western Asia and the non-glaciated portions of Europe starting about 230,000 years ago. Modern humans moved
into western Asia from Africa less than 100,000 years ago. Modern humans, known as Cro-Magnons
, moved into Europe approximately 50–40,000 years ago.
A strengthening of the summer monsoon
9000–7000 years ago increased rainfall across the Sahara
, which became a grassland
, with lakes, rivers, and wetlands. After a period of climatic instability, the Sahara settled into a desert state by the 4th millennium BCE
is the dominant grain grown around the Mediterranean Basin. Pulses
are also grown. The characteristic tree crop is the olive
are another important fruit tree, and citrus
, especially lemons
, are grown where irrigation is present. Grapes
are an important vine
crop, grown for fruit and to make wine
and summer vegetables are grown in irrigated areas.
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Last edited on 6 May 2021, at 16:44
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