Mediterranean life is strongly conditioned by water scarcity due to the regional climate constraints, and forests are essential to maintaining water and soil resources. Forests protect watersheds and regulate the local climate by increasing the air humidity, thereby reducing drought intensity. In this way, they are a barrier against desertification. Forests also serve as natural barriers to storms and floods, with a considerable capacity for water retention which regulates the gradual flow of water and sediments in watersheds, and reduces run-off and landslides during periods of heavy rainfall.
Forests have always played, and still play, an important role in the daily life of Mediterranean communities. People have been harvesting animal and plant products from the forest on a large scale in the region for thousands of years, developing numerous uses and management systems, and acquiring a sophisticated knowledge of their environment. In the past, forests and trees were attributed long-standing cultural values that have defined the Mediterranean landscape. Many endangered ecosystems and rare, endemic species in the Mediterranean still coexist in close relationship with humans.
Moving from these assumptions, Mediterranean forests require special attention especially because:
- They provide highly appreciated marketed goods (e.g. firewood, cork, pine kernels and mushrooms) as well as high-value but non-market services (e.g. landscape quality, soil protection, water regulation and recreation possibilities).
- They constitute a unique world natural heritage in terms of biological diversity; however, this patrimony is seriously endangered.
- Their conservation and management affects the availability of soil and water resources - key strategic resources for Mediterranean societies.
- Their future is seriously endangered by climate and land-use changes, which add to long-lasting problems related to forest fires, forest over-exploitation and the advance of desertification in the region.
The Silva Mediterranea Project
Taking into consideration the range of threats and challenges affecting Mediterranean forests ecosystems, IUCN-Med is cooperating with the Collaborative Partnership on Mediterranean Forests, whose objective is to jointly strengthen the capacity of member countries of Silva Mediterranea , a statutory body of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), to accelerate the implementation of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) and the protection of forest-based ecosystem services under climate change (CC) conditions in the Southern Mediterranean region.
For this purpose, participants intend to coordinate their respective support activities in the frame of a common programmatic approach based on agreed objectives and expected results.
Objective of the partnership
To improve the political frame conditions for sustainable management of forests and related ecosystem services in the context of climate change in selected member countries of Silva Mediterranea.
Mediterranean North Africa and Middle East
- Agence Française de Développement/Fonds Français pour l’Environment Mondial (AFD/FFEM)
- Association Internationale Forêts Méditerranéennes (AIFM)
- European Forest Institute – Mediterranean Regional Office (EFIMED)
- Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
- Ministère de l’Alimentation, de l’Agriculture et de la Pêche de la France (MAAP)
- Plan Bleu/Regional Centre of Activities of the Mediterranean Action Plan (PB/PAM)
- World Wide Fund for Nature – Mediterranean Initiative (WWF-MedPO)
- ONF International (ONF-I)
- Mediterranean Model Forest Network (MMFN)
The role of forests in global climate change
Tackling climate change is a top priority for regional governments, research institutions and international organizations working in the region. IUCN and the conservation community at large are embarking on forest-related climate change work, including, amongst other issues, developing adaptation strategies to manage the uncertainties caused by climate change and building ecological and social resilience.