This biogeographical region includes the Mediterranean Sea and seven Member States, either partially (France, Portugal, Italy, Spain) or completely (Greece, Malta, Cyprus). It has specific regional features: a climate of hot dry summers and humid, cool winters and a generally hilly landscape. The Mediterranean has not only a very rich biodiversity but also a large number of species that do not exist anywhere else.
To best protect the Mediterranean region, the relevant Member States and key stakeholders team up to devise nature protection measures, tailored to suit the particular needs of the entire region and to target its specific pressures.
The list of sites of Community importance for the Mediterranean biogeographical region, included in Natura 2000, is updated every year.
The climate is characterised by hot dry summers and humid, cool winters. It is also very capricious with sudden heavy rain or bouts of high winds such as the Sirocco and Mistral. This climate has a profound influence on the vegetation and wildlife of the region.
For a region that takes its name from the sea it surrounds, the Mediterranean is surprisingly hilly. It includes high mountains and rocky shores, thick scrub and semi-arid steppes, coastal wetlands and sandy beaches as well as a myriad of islands dotted across the sea.
Man has left its mark across much of the landscape. The Mediterranean scrub, with its many flowers and aromatic plants, is a direct result of centuries of human activities (livestock grazing, cultivation forest fires and clearances). This scrub has evolved into a complex and intricate mobile patchwork of habitats, home to an exceptionally rich biodiversity.
Mediterranean wildlife and habitats are very specific as the region was not affected by the last Ice Age. The rate of endemism is exceptionally high. The Mediterranean is one of the world's top biodiversity hotspots.
Whilst the Mediterranean scrub is synonymous with the region, there are many other species-rich habitats here. Large tracts of natural, virtually pristine, forests have remained relatively untouched by man. While most central and northern European forests are now dominated by only a dozen or so tree species, the Mediterranean forests are much more diverse, harbouring up to 100 different tree species.
Too dry for trees, other areas of the Mediterranean are covered in grasslands. These semi-arid steppic areas may seem barren and lifeless but, on closer inspection, reveal an equally rich wildlife. These grasslands are prime locations for the great bustard (Otis tarda), the little bustard (Tetrax tetrax) and a whole range of ground-nesting birds such as the pin-tailed sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata).
Where water is more bountiful, wetlands appear at regular intervals, ranging from tiny coastal lagoons to vast deltas around the long coastline. They harbour hundreds of species of endemic fish, amphibians and insects which, in turn, attract huge flocks of waders and dabbling ducks, especially during the migration season. Up to two billion birds migrate to, or through, the Mediterranean Region every year. Some merely stop over for a few days to refuel before crossing the Sahara but others spend the entire winter here to escape the cold weather further north.
As for the Mediterranean Sea, its clear blue waters are famous throughout the world. It harbours a tremendous diversity of marine organisms, many of which are endemic to the region. It is estimated that the Mediterranean contains 8–9 % of all the world’s marine creatures. Many of the lesser-known sponges, sea squirts and crustaceans can be found hidden amongst the vast underwater meadows or Posidonia beds that grow in shallow coastal waters.
The Mediterranean Region is under tremendous pressure due to human activities. It is the number one tourism destination in the world. As a result, much of the Mediterranean coastline has disappeared under concrete. There are chronic water shortages and a constant threat of forest fires. Inland, many of the ancient pastoral regimes are being abandoned because they are no longer economically viable.
To reflect the changes proposed by Member States to the list of SCIs, and to ensure that all new sites have a clearly defined legal status, the Commission proceeds to an annual updating of the Union Lists.
The list of updates as well as the first version of the Mediterranean list are available here
The Reference list of habitat types and species of the Mediterranean Region includes protected habitat types (Habitats Directive Annex I) and species (Habitats Directive Annex II) present in this bio-geographical region by Member State. These are all habitat types and species for which the Member States have to propose Natura 2000 sites. The Reference Lists derive from the conclusions of bio-geographical seminars and are updated when new scientific information becomes available.