van Ierland, E
Oxford Bibliographies in Environmental Science
Oxford University Press
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Allen, H. (2017). Mediterranean Environments. In Woll, E. Oxford University Press, Oxford Bibliographies in Environmental Science. [Book chapter]. https://doi.org/10.1093/OBO/9780199363445-0076
Mediterranean environments are found in the Mediterranean Basin itself, California (including Baja-California, Mexico), central Chile, south and southwestern Australia, and the Cape region of South Africa. They share a climate typically characterized by hot, dry summers and warm, wet winters. These climate regions occur on the western sides of continents between latitudes 23o and 40o north and south of the equator, and are associated with cold ocean currents. Their climatic origins date back to progressive cooling of Earth’s climate in the Late Miocene and the onset of Northern Hemisphere glaciations in the later Neogene and early Quaternary. Synergistically the selective forces of fire, geology, and climate, over millions of years, have resulted in convergence of plant traits leading to vegetation communities dominated by sclerophyllous, evergreen shrublands. Additionally, woodlands are or were extensive, such as evergreen oak woodlands in California and the Mediterranean Basin, eucalyptus in Australia, and evergreen woods in Chile. Only in the fynbos of South Africa are woodlands largely absent. Pastures and grasslands are also constituent mediterranean-type communities. While the five mediterranean regions share common environmental traits, their individuality offers the potential for comparative studies of evolutionary and ecological processes. Collaborative research started in the 1970s and has burgeoned since the 1990s with their recognition as “natural laboratories” for studying global change, as they differ less in key aspects of their biomes than other biome types that occur in more than one locality worldwide. Further, they are sensitive to several interacting drivers of such change such as biotic exchanges, land use, and climate changes. Fire is one of the key factors in explaining the contemporary ecology of mediterranean-type ecosystems, and its incidence is expected to increase as climate and land-use and land-cover changes alter patterns of fuel (vegetation) accumulation; this is a major area of current research. Each of the regions is recognized as a biodiversity hotspot subjected to intense pressures from their human populations.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/OBO/9780199363445-0076
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.13285