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Mediterranean forests

 

If there is a single environment that summarizes the biological richness of the Mediterranean Basin this is, no doubt, the Mediterranean forest. Holm Oaks, Portuguese Oaks and Cork Trees are well adapted to the contrasts of climate and are the undisputed protagonists of the landscape of much of the Iberian Peninsula. Far from suffering the rigors of summer, they boast of their ability to take full advantage of the absence of precipitation which, in these latitudes, is concentrated in very short periods of time.

Plants from these forests suffer during the summer a drought comparable to that of the deserts, for what they display the most original strategies to survive. The most important of these is the development of sclerophillous leaves. Sclerophillous leaves accumulate a thic layer of wax to prevent water loss, thereby gaining greater rigidity. This design prevents, collaterally, the attack of most herbivores. In addition, sclerophillous leaves usually present equally ingenious modifications to minimize desiccation: succulent leaves to reduce surface/volume ratio (like the desert plants), accumulation of stomata on the underside, presence of trichomes or the forlding of the edge of the blade.

   

Other adaptations are intended to resist the scourge of fires, a problem endemic to the Mediterranean climate, due to the high frequency of thunderstorms. Many Mediterranean plants have a great capacity to regrowth, germination induced by high temperatures, production of volatile substances or even a thickened bark, like the famous cork from the Cork Tree, displaying all an engineering show that perfectrly defines their high degree of adaptation.

But we must not ignore the case of conifers. Adapted to thrive in extreme environments, who shun the angiosperm trees, conifers have successfully colonized most difficult substrates, creating magnificent forests. This type of formations has often been ignored by conservation movements because its natural distribution has been extensively modified by human activity, being in many cases fast growing species suitable for use in forestry. We should keep in mind, however, that these ecosystems are a natural part of the mosaic of Mediterranean landscapes, long before the arrival of humans to these lands.

  

In both cases, conifers and angiosperms, the shelter of the canopy allows the presence of more favorable microenvironments, laying the basis for an extremely complex and prolific system, where shrub diversity is especially remarkable. Although these formations keep evergreen vegetation throughout the year, the effect of the seasons is felt and species are subject to the same cycles of productivity as that of the climates of North Europe. Spring and summer are periods of phenological bloom, in which most plants flower and there are peaks of abundance of invertebrates. However, some species produce flowers throughout the year keeping the activity of pollinating insects during the winter. Fruit production will not be as prolific as that of deciduous forests, but it also provides the livehoods for a large number of species during the colder monts.

 n ambos casos, el cobijo del dosel arbóreo posibilita la aparición de microambientes más favorables, sentando la base de un sistema extremadamente complejo y prolífico, donde la diversidad de estratos arbustivos es especialmente remarcable. Pese a que las formaciones perennes mantienen la cobertura vegetal durante todo el año, el efecto de las estaciones se deja notar y las especies se ven sometidas a los mismos ciclos de productividad que en los climas centroeuropeos. La primavera y el verano son periodos de explosión fenológica, en el que la mayoría de plantas florecen y se dan los picos de abundancia de los invertebrados. Sin embargo algunas especies producirán flores a lo largo de todo el año manteniendo la actividad de los insectos polinizadores durante el invierno. La producción de frutos no será tan prolífica como la de los bosques caducifolios, pero permitirá igualmente la subsistencia de un gran número de especies durante los meses más fríos.

El ecosistema mediterráneo es pródigo en especies animales endémicas, perfectamente adaptadas a estas condiciones tan particulares. A ellas debemos sumar un gran número de taxones propios de climas más fríos o cálidos. Además el bosque mediterráneo es, por su especial climatología y fenología, el refugio típico de especies migradoras de procedencia diversa, tanto en verano como en invierno.

Resulta increíble comprobar el extraordinario desarrollo que alcanzan estas formaciones en un escenario tan limitado. En los bosques mediterráneos florece la vida sin timidez alguna, en un derroche de recursos y estrategias digno de las selvas tropicales.

 


 

Hábitats de Interés Comunitario (Directiva Hábitat) comprendidos en esta sección

MATORRAL MEDITERRÁNEO

  • 4030.- Brezales secos europeos (303010, 303020, 303030, 303040, 303050, 303060, 303070)
  • 4090.- Brezales oromediterráneos endémicos con aliaga (309010, 309020, 309030, 309040, 309050, 309060, 309070, 309080, 309090, 3090A0, 3090B0, 3090C0, 3090D0, 3090E0).
  • 5110.- Formaciones estables xerotermófilas de Buxus sempervirens en pendientes rocosas (411010, 411020, 411030, 411040, 411050, 411060). 
  • 5210.- Matorrales arborescentes de Juniperus ssp. (421010, 421110, 421410).

BOSQUES DE FRONDOSAS

  • 9240.- Robledales ibéricos de Quercus faginea y Quercus canariensis (824010, 824020, 824030, 824040).
  • 9330.- Alcornocales de Quercus suber (833010, 833020, 833030, 833040).
  • 9340.- Bosques de Quercus ilex y Quercus rotundifolia (834010, 834020, 834030, 834040).

BOSQUES DE CONÍFERAS

  • 9530.- Bosques de pino salgareño (Pinus nigra subsp. salzmannii) de las montañas ibéricas orientales (853310, 853320, 853340, 853350).
  • 9540.- Pinares mediterráneos de pinos mesogeanos endémicos (854010).
  • 9560.- Bosques endémicos de Juniperus ssp. (856110, 856510, 856520, 856530).

Información adicional sobre los bosques mediterráneos de la Península Ibérica

  • El bosque mediterráneo
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