Mediterranean ecosystems: problems and tools for conservation
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1191/0309133306pp472ra
Mediterranean ecosystems rival tropical ecosystems in terms of plant biodiversity. The Mediterranean Basin (MB) itself hosts 25 000 plant species, half of which are endemic. This rich biodiversity and the complex biogeographical and political issues make conservation a difficult task in the region. Species, habitat, ecosystem and landscape approaches have been used to identify conservation targets at various scales: ie, European, national, regional and local. Conservation decisions require adequate information at the species, community and habitat level. Nevertheless and despite recent improvements/efforts, this information is still incomplete, fragmented and varies from one country to another. This paper reviews the biogeographic data, the problems arising from current conservation efforts and methods for the conservation assessment and prioritization using GIS. GIS has an important role to play for managing spatial and attribute information on the ecosystems of the MB and to facilitate interactions with existing databases. Where limited information is available it can be used for prediction when directly or indirectly linked to externally built models. As well as being a predictive tool today GIS incorporate spatial techniques which can improve the level of information such as fuzzy logic, geostatistics, or provide insight about landscape changes such as 3D visualization. Where there are limited resources it can assist with identifying sites of conservation priority or the resolution of environmental conflicts (scenario building). Although not a panacea, GIS is an invaluable tool for improving the understanding of Mediterranean ecosystems and their dynamics and for practical management in a region that is under increasing pressure from human impact.
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