The Mediterranean Basin, being the third most significant plant diversity hotspot worldwide, is an area where plant species conservation and ecological habitat restoration are of major importance for sustainable development. Restoration practices using native locally adapted plant species with sufficient intraspecific genetic diversity can contribute to improving ecosystem management while also enhancing the conservation of plant diversity. In the case of habitats of high conservation value, appropriate restoration practices are even more crucial.
One of the major problems for the Mediterranean Basin countries is the lack of necessary propagative material of native plant species for restoration actions. In most cases, including reforestations and actions to combat desertification, instead of propagative material from native plant species well adapted in the local conditions, few or no native plant species are used. This is a result of lack of knowledge but also of nurseries that produce native plants. In other fewer cases where native plant species are already used, there is a need for scientific standards ensuring the sustainability of the restoration actions.
The use of native plants in green spaces such as parks, farms and gardens is also limited by lack of knowledge and propagative material. In many cases, although there may be demand for such plants, non-native species, exotic ornamental plants, or even invasive alien species are used.
A biodiversity hotspot is defined as an area holding at least 1,500 endemic plant species (species that grow nowhere else in the world), and having lost at least 70% of its original habitat extent. Only 5% of the original habitat still exists in the Mediterranean Basin and it is mainly human activities that have caused its degradation or destruction and the consequent threat to native plant species.
By ecological habitat restoration, we mean assisting the recovery of a habitat that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed by using genetically local native species for its restoration. Ecological restoration in a broader sense involves attempting to re-establish the ecosystem itself as well as targeting restoration of its services to humankind. It also involves activities such as erosion control, removal of non-native and invasive species, and treating the causes rather than the symptoms of degradation.
Mittermeier, R.A., Robles Gil, P., Hoffman, M., Pilgrim, J., Brooks, T., Mittermeier, C.G., Lamoreux, J., da Fonseca, G.A.B., 2005. Hotspots Revisited: Earth's Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Terrestrial Ecoregions. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA.
Society for Ecological Restoration International and IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management. 2004. Ecological Restoration, a means of conserving biodiversity and sustaining livelihoods. Society for Ecological Restoration International, Tucson, Arizona, USA and IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
Cañadas E.M., Fenu G., Peñas J., Lorite J., Mattana E., Bacchetta G., 2014. Hotspots within hotspots: Endemic plant richness, environmental drivers, and implications for conservation. Biological Conservation 170 (2014) 282–29.
Nellemann, C., E. Corcoran (eds). 2010. Dead Planet, Living Planet – Biodiversity and Ecosystem Restoration for Sustainable Development. A Rapid Response Assessment. United Nations Environment Programme, GRID-Arendal. www.grida.no