Biodiversity in the Mediterranean
Though the Mediterranean only covers 0.7% of the world’s ocean area it is one of the major reservoirs of marine and coastal biodiversity, with 28% of endemic species and 7.5% of the world’s marine fauna and 18% of its marine flora. This little semi-closed sea is rich in islands and underwater beds and is also a major area of wintering, reproduction and migration.
Certain species there form the foundations of this dense life; in a dynamic but fragile balance with their environment they build up the main striking landscapes of the Mediterranean coastal area, like the Posidonia meadows and the coralligenous beds. Many other sensitive habitats are found there: deep-sea coral communities, underwater caves, dune areas, coastal forests and Mediterranean lagoons, wetlands that are of international importance for birds.
The coasts are under constant and growing human pressure caused by the activities of 150 million residents and the arrival of 200 million tourists every year, the consequences of which have for decades been uncontrollable.
Unbridled and intensive urbanization, the overexploitation of resources, the proliferation of introduced species, maritime transport and pollution have directly led to the degradation of biodiversity, the growing scarcity of the most sensitive species and, especially, the threat to striking coastal habitats, some of which constitute extraordinary sites, like the Port-Cros National Park or the Zembra archipelago.
To date IUCN has evaluated 1912 species of amphibians, birds, cartilaginous fishes, endemic freshwater fishes, crabs and crayfish, mammals, dragonflies and reptiles in the Mediterranean region. About 19% of these species are threatened with extinction: 5% Critically Endangered, 7% Endangered and 7% Vulnerable. (You can find definitions of the IUCN's categories on the following link)
The present situation may be stated in the form of a simple equation:
Great biological richness + Strong human pressure = Erosion of biodiversity; already at least 306 animal and plant species are threatened in the Mediterranean.