Provisional list of succulent species of the Mediterranean Region

Based on text compiled by Silvio Fici and Mauricio Sajeva. Table compiled by M. Sajeva and Henk t'Hart.

The Mediterranean phytogeographic region is generally considered to include the coastal fringe of the Mediterranean area with the exception of parts of the Libyan, Egyptian, and Tunisian coasts, but with the inclusion of the Atlantic coasts of Portugal, Spain, and Morocco. Macaronesia (Canaries, Madeira, and the Azores) and parts of the Black Sea coasts have a Mediterranean climate and are often included in this phytogeographic region.

Within the region there is considerable geological and climatic diversity which is reflected in the vegetation and flora. In large areas of the region, however, thousands of years of human influence, involving deforestation, overgrazing, fire, and urbanisation, has caused complete modification of the landscape and vegetation dynamics.

Succulent plants are relatively scarce in the Mediterranean flora; those that do occur are usually small in stature. They occur in various different habitat types, predominantly in montane regions. In contrast to the widely dispersed Macaronisian succulent flora, these plants are relatively dominant in only a few areas in the Mediterranean basin, most notably on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Some succulents, such as Caralluma and belong to tropical or subtropical genera that reach their northern limits in this region. Most succulents, however, belong to genera of the Crassulaceae which are widespread in boreal regions, principally Sedum, Jovibarba, Sempervivum, and Rosularia. The succulent flora of Morocco has some genera in common with the Canary Islands, notably Aeonium, Aichryson, Caralluma, Euphorbia, and Kleinia, and a few species are common to both.

The Atlantic coastal area of Morocco near Agadir and to the south where there are many succulents is a priority area for protection. Species include Euphorbia officinarum, E. echinus, Caralluma burchardii, C. europaea, and Kleinia anteuphorbium. Threats to these plants include industrial and tourism development, agriculture, and overgrazing.

The main threat for the survival of cacti and succulents in this region is habitat modification and destruction, mainly from industrial and tourism development of coastal and mountain grassland areas.

Caralluma europaea on Lampedusa Island.

Refuse disposal from construction also poses a threat to some habitats, for example that of Caralluma europaea on Lampedusa Island, Italy. Other threats to mountainous habitats are dams and mining activities. Grazing, especially by goats, is a major factor in the loss of biodiversity in the Mediterranean region. Al though not serious, collection by individuals poses a threat to some small populations of rare mountain succulents within the region. Fire destroys large areas of drier vegetation where these plants are often found. Invasive species, such as Opuntia ficus-indica are a problem for native species in parts of Spain and Greece primarily threatening Aeonium arboreum and Dracaena draco, both native in north-west Africa.

Existing conservation measures

Europe is generally well endowed with protected areas, but the Mediterranean region is probably that with the least coverage. For the Mediterranean region the Bern Convention only lists nine succulent species of the Canary Islands. There are a few succulents from the region listed on CITES, but a significant trade in cacti and other CITES succulents continues in the Mediterranean. Botanical gardens in the region which have important succulent collections include Blanes (Spain); The Almeda, Gibraltar Botanic Gardens; Monte Carlo (Monaco); and Palermo (Sicily).

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