Mediterranean Woodlands and Scrub

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Mediterranean Woodlands and Scrub

Climate: The Mediterranean experiences hot, dry summers, with temperatures usually between 20 and 25°C, but they can reach well in excess of 30°C.

Winters are mild, with temperatures falling to around 10°C. There is moderate rainfall, of around 800mm, which falls mainly in the winter

Vegetation: The Mediterranean hillsides were once covered in dense deciduous and coniferous forests. In Europe this meant that trees such as the oak flourished, whilst in California giant redwood trees grew up. Most of these have been cleared, especially in Europe, however some do remain in remote areas.

Mediterranean woodlands and scrub

Where the forests have been removed a dense scrubland has replaced them. The shrub vegetation has adapted to cope with the dry, hot summers by having waxy leaves that prevent water loss through transpiration. They also have long roots to reach water deep below the surface. Many of the trees are resistant to fire, as these are a common feature of the Mediterranean area.

Clearance: Humans have ahd a huge impact on Mediterranean woodland throughout the world, but particularly in Europe. The Romans and Greeks cleared much of it for fuel wood and building materials, as well as clearing areas for farming.

Agriculture: the massive clearance of the Mediterranean woodlands exposed huge areas for farming, as they presumed the ground would be fertile. Unfortunately in many cases the dry summers and winter rains proceeded to wash away the nutritious topsoil fairly quickly. This leaves relatively infertile land on which to farm.

A very good example where this occurred was in Southern Italy. Grazing animals also caused great damage to the woodlands, and continue to also affect the newer scrubland that has developed.

Fires: Forest fires are very common in the Mediterranean area, and this has helped to destroy much of the original woodland. The shrubs and small trees that have replaced them often are resistant to fire.

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