East Mediterranean Oak Woodland/Scrub

It seems likely that much of the Eastern Mediterranean would have been clothed in a climax community of oak woodland prior to human intervention. Much is dominated by Quercus calliprinos a species that can attain heights of 15 m in some of the woodland remnants that have been left undisturbed such as in the so-called sacred woods. In such areas other species like Crataegus aronia, Laurus nobile, Pistacia palaestrina, Quercus ithaburensis and Q. macrolepis can all grow into stately trees, but many of the remaining stands have a much more stunted appearance. In Palestine, Syria and Lebanon much of these are dominated by Quercus calliprinus, although the endemic Pistacia palaestina (Anacardiaceae) may often be co-dominant. Its interesting to note that these two species have their West Mediterranean vicariads in Quercus coccifera and Pistacia terebinthus, while Arbutus andrachne, another important component of these East Mediterranean oak woods, is an east vicariad of the mainly west and north Mediterranean Arbutus unedo. In other parts of the East Mediterranean the oak woodlands are typified by other species. Quercus bossieri becomes the main species in slightly colder, more mesic situations such as on Meron Mountain (north Palestine), while in northwestern Anatolia Q. coccifera and Q. infectoria are the main species and Arbutus andrachne is replaced by A. unedo, showing the areas affinity with the Western Mediterranean.  Other oak species forming dominant woodland trees include Quercus ilex (e.g. uplands of Crete), Quercus macrolepis (e.g. western and south western Turkey) and Quercus ithaburensis.  Woodlands dominated by the latter reach their southern limit in central Palestine occurring in places such as the Sharon Plain, Lower Galilee and the Golan area. Like several other woodland and maquis species, Quercus ithaburensis is winter deciduous and may represent a vegetational relic of an earlier climate.  Among the many endemic or near endemic species associated with these oak woodlands are Asperula libanotica (Rubiaceae), Cytisus syriacus, Lupinus palaestrinus (Fabaceae), Gonocytisus pterocladus (Fabaceae), Origanum laevigatum (Lamiaceae), Plantago sarcophylla (Plantaginaceae), Prunus ursina (Rosaceae), Synelcosciadium carmeli (Apiaceae) and Verbascum gaillardotii (Scrophulariaceae).

East Mediterranean Quercus cerris Montane Woodland

These summer green woodlands often occupy an intermediate zone between the lowland woodlands of Quercus calliprinus and the mountain woodlands of Cedrus libani and range in altitude from about 1000 to 1600 m. They can be found in various upland areas such as the Amanus Mountains (southern Turkey), Lebanon Mountains and Mount Hermon. Other characteristic arboreal species are Acer monspessulanum, Colutea arborescens, Cotinus coggygria, Eriolobus trilobatus, Fontanesia phillyreoides, Fraxinus ornus, Juniperus oxycedrus, Ostrya carpinifolia, Pinus nigra subsp. pallasiana, Pyracantha coccinea, Quercus chrysophylla and Quercus look, some of which form local dominants in their own right. Of the shrubs, ferns and herbs the following are fairly typical: Asplenium trichomanes, Blechnum spicant, Phyllitis sagittata, Pteris vittata, Adenocarpus complicatus, Agropyron panormitanum, Buxus longifolius, Cornus australis, Cytisus drepanolobus, Hypericum hircinum and Salvia grandiflora. The associated endemic or near endemic species include Ampelopsis orientalis (Vitaceae), Gonocytisus pterocladus (Fabaceae), Kundmannia syriaca (Apiaceae), Lecokia cretica (Apiaceae), Pyrus syriaca (Rosaceae), Rhamnus hirtellus (Rhamnaceae), Scutellaria diffusa (Lamiaceae) and Siphonostegia syriacus (Scrophulariaceae).

East Mediterranean Pinus brutia Forest

Forests dominated by Pinus brutia extend from Lebanon through southern and western Turkey, the Black Sea regions, Cyprus, Crete, and other Aegean islands, and range from sea level to about 1800 m. In fact, on Cyprus it is the only pine-species that descends to sea level. It has many traits in common with the more southerly Pinus halepensis, but is much more widespread. The rich undergrowth varies from place to place and includes a number of endemic or near endemic taxa like Acer obtusifolium (Aceraceae), Berberis cretica (Berberidaceae), Bromus syriacus (Poaceae), Centaurea cretica, Jurinea mollis subsp. anatolica and Lactuca cretica (Asteraceae), Cytisopsis pseudocytisus (Fabaceae), Origanum libanoticum, Origanum syriacum, Phlomis vicosa, Salvia triloba subsp. libanotica and Stachys distans (Lamiaceae).

East Mediterranean Cupressus sempervirens Forest

Forests of Cupressus sempervirens var. horizontalis have been recorded in Anatolia, Crete, Cyprus, Jordan and Lebanon, and according to the fossil record were probably also in the Judean Mountains and elsewhere. They are normally confined to rocky ground and invariable co-dominated by species such as Acer obtusifolium (e.g. Cyprus), Acer orientale (e.g. Crete), Juniperus phoenica (e.g. Jordan) and Quercus calliprinus (e.g. Lebanon). Their under story species also display large variations but may include various endemic or endemic species such as Astragalus creticus (Fabaceae), Gonocytisus pterocladus (Fabaceae), Silene libanotica (Caryophyllaceae) and Stachys cretica (Lamiaceae).

East Mediterranean Cedrus libani Forest

These forests are confined to the highest forest zones of the Eastern Mediterranean reaching the timberline at about 2,200 m. Some of the best examples are seen in the Lebanon Mountains, while less extensive and often relict stands can be found in Syria, the Amanus, Taurus, the Anti-Taurus Mountains (Anatolia), and the Troodos Mountains (Cyprus). In Cyprus the cedar belongs to a separate variety known as var. brevifolia. The outstanding cedar forest of Bsharri consists of many ancient and majestic specimens. Commonly associated arboreal species include Abies cilicica, Juniperus excelsia and Quercus libani.  Associated endemic or near endemic species are Acantholimon libanoticum (Plumbaginaceae), Campanula damascena (Campanulaceae), Geranium libani (Geraniaceae), Marrubium libanoticum, Phlomis chrysophylla (Lamiaceae), Rhamnus libanoticus (Rhamnaceae), Rossularia libanotica (Crassulaceae), Scabiosa intermedia (Dipsacaceae) and Scrophularia libanotica (Scrophulariaceae). 

East Mediterranean Ceratonia silqua-Pistacia lentiscus Maquis

Although grazing by domestic stock has always interfered with this community its arboreal elements have never been totally destroyed, and it often retains an open, park-like appearance. Some of the more typical trees include the community dominants Ceratonia siliqua, Olea europaea var. oleaster and sometimes Juniperus phoenica, while the shrubby cover is predominated by Pistacia lentiscus. But this should not belie the fact that this is one of the Eastern Mediterranean’s richest maquis communities supporting some 250 flowering plants, and no other maquis displays such a profusion of flowers in springtime.  It occurs throughout the BioProvince and in Palestine forms almost a continuous belt along the foothills and lower zones of the calcareous Cisjordanian Mountains from Duweima (near Hebron) to the Lebanese frontier. It shows slight variations in species composition from place to place. In Syria and Lebanon, Myrtus communis becomes a more important component, while in Cyprus Juniperus phoenica usually supersedes Ceratonia siliqua as the most important tree species. Its Anatolian counterpart is also slightly different in that Pistacia lentiscus becomes less common and may be replaced by species such as Quercus coccifera. Many of the associated species, such as as Ceratonia siliqua, Cistus creticus, Erica verticillata and Pistacia lentiscus have circum or almost circum - Mediterranean distributions, while others like Pyrus syriaca are found further east in the Irano-Turanian flora. There is also a large endemic or near endemic element including Genista anatolica (Fabaceae), Marjorana syriaca and Salvia hiersolymitana (Lamiaceae), Rhamnus palaestinus and R. punctata (Rhamnaceae).

East Mediterranean Sarcopoterium spinosum Garigue

This represents the main dwarf shrub vegetation of the East Mediterranean and often dominates wherever the arboreal climax vegetation has been destroyed, although on the eastern and southern fringes of the BioProvince it forms natural climax vegetation in its own right. Referred to as Batha in the Bible it is usually characterized by the dominance of Sarcopoterium spinosum, but may also commonly include Calycotoma villosa, Cistus creticus, Corydothymus capitatus, Genista fasselata, Helianthemum stipularum or Salvia triloba, any one of which can be locally dominant of sub-dominant. It also incorporates hundreds of other species including many winter and summer annuals and can be extremely colourful especially in springtime. Although it probably sees its best development in Palestine, it also occurs in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Cyprus and Crete. Many of the species are deep-rooted heliophytes with relatively low moisture requirements and can grow well on stony ground. The many endemic or near endemic species include Acanthus syriacus (Acanthaceae), Convolvulus caelesyriacus (Convolvulaceae), Eryngium creticum (Apiaceae), Euphorbia cassia (Euphorbiaceae), Maresia pulchella (Brassicaceae), Nigella arvensis var. palaestina (Ranunculaceae), Plantago cretica (Plantaginaceae), Teucrium creticum, Phlomis cretica, Salvia libanotica (Lamiaceae), Lotus creticus, Lupinus palaestinus, Trifolium palaestinum, Vicia palaestina (Fabaceae).

East Mediterranean Ballota undulata Semi-Steppe (Batha)

This encapsulates a number of associations of batha-like semi-steppe vegetation confined to the borderlands between the Mediterranean and Irano-Turranian territories. Other dominant or co-dominant species include Convolvulus dorycnium and Psoralea bituminosa (e.g. Upper Galilee), Echinops polyceras (e.g. South Judean Desert), Ononis natrix (e.g. Judean Mountains), Euphorbia hierosolymitana (e.g. Syria), together with several endemic or near endemic species like Alkanna strigosa (e.g. Judean Mountains), Centaurea damascena (e.g. Lebanon) and Salvia dominica (e.g. Golan Slopes). Many of the associated perennials are exclusively Mediterranean border plants, but in addition there are a considerable number of associated annual species. Other associated endemic or near endemic species include Acanthus syriacus (Acanthaceae), Arrhenatherum palaestinum (Poaceae), Crepis palaestina, Filago palaestina, Onopordun palaestinum, Scorzonera judaica (Asteraceae), Pimpinella cretica (Apiaceae), Salvia judaica (Lamiaceae), Scabiosa palaestina and S. prolifera (Dipsacaceae). 

East Mediterranean Hyperrhenia hirta Grassland/Savannah

There are extensive stands of Hyperrhenia hirta in Anotolia, Crete, Israel and Syria. It either forms of grass-steppe mixed with Capparis spinosa var. aegyptia or a savannah-like formation in which trees of Ziziphus spina-christi are scattered throughout the grass layer. The latter has a strong resemblance to an African savannah, and although it is now mainly confined to the foothills bordering the coastal plain, a series of lowland remnants suggest that it once occupied large areas of the Philistean Plain before human interference, and may represent a local climax community. Similar savannah-like landscapes are encountered in the Upper Jordan Valley. Some of the associated endemic species include Eryngium creticum (Apiaceae), Rhamnus palaestinus (Rhamnaceae) and Sideritis pullulans (Lamiaceae).

East Mediterranean Varthemia montana Rock, Cliff and Scree Formations

This broad category includes all communities occurring on rocks, walls, scree and chasms. Lithophytes (i.e. species capable of penetrating rocks with their roots) and chasmophytes make up the bulk of the species with some of the most characteristic of these including Varthemia montana, Ballota saxatilis, Hyoscyamus aureus, Micromeria fruticosa, Onosma orientale, Sedum nicaeense, Stachys palaestina and Umbilicus intermedius. On scree Theligonum cynocrambe becomes one of the main species together with Aristolochia parifolia, Cicer pinnatifidum, Crepis bulbosa, Cruciata areticulata, Geranium tuberosum, Lathyrus marmoratus, Pisum fulvum var. amphicarpum and Valantia hispida.  Some of the associated endemic or near endemic species include Echium judaeum (Boraginaceae), Parietaria judaica (Urticaceae) and Rumex cyprius (Polygonaceae).

East Mediterranean Coastal Dunes (Greece)

In the Evrotas Delta (Southeastern Peloponnisos) in the Lakonikos Gulf the delta developed from sediment transported by the River Evrotas. Four sand dune vegetation types have been recognised here.

Embryonic shifting dunes
These low sparsely vegetated dunes dominated by Ammophila arenaria and Cakile maritima form the first evolutionary stage of the sand dune development. Other common species include Anthemis tomentosa, Cyperus capitatus, Elymus farctus, Eryngium maritimum, Euphorbia peplis, Pancratium maritimum, Salsola kali, Sporobolus pungens and Xanthium strumarium.

White shifting dunes with Ammophila arenaria
In these relatively unstable dunes the sand binding grass Ammophila arenaria becomes much more common. The dunes can reach heights of over 4 m, but their floristic composition is very similar to embryonic dunes and typically include Anthemis tomentosa, Cyperus capitatus, Elymus farctus, Euphorbia paralias, Euphorbia peplis, Eryngium maritimum, Medicago marina, Pancratium maritimum, Silene colorata, Sporobolus pungens and in the hollows Saccharum ravennae.

Fixed dunes with herbaceous vegetation (grey dunes)
These stabilized inland dunes typically have full cover of permanent vegetation characterised by various herbaceous plants, together with a number of woody species and lichens. Dune stability is also helped by increased levels of organic matter which improves water retention and soil cohesion. Common species include Anagallis foemina, Avena sterilis, Briza maxima, Bromus hordeaceus, Cynosurus echinatus, Erodium cicutarium, Hordeum murinum, Juncus conglomeratus, Lagurus ovatus, Matricaria recutita, Nerium oleander, Petrorhagia dubia, Silene colorata, Trifolium angustifolium, and Vitex agnus-castus. Others are Aira elegantissima, Anagallis arvensis, Astragalus spruneri, Geranium dissectum, Knautia integrifolia, Lagurus ovatus, Melilotus indicus, Onobrychis caput-galli, Scaligeria napiformis and Vicia sativa subsp. nigra.

Dune scrub
Evergreen, sclerophyllous scrub forms a dense unbroken canopy up to 3 m high and represents the final stage in the succession of vegetation on these dunes. The main species is Pistacia lentiscus. Other typical taxa include Calicotome villosa, Ceratonia siliqua, Clematis flammula, Myrtus communis, Prasium majus, Pyrus spinosa, Rubus sanctus, Smilax aspera and Vitex agnus-castus

East Mediterranean Coastal Dunes (Turkey)

The study site here is located close to the village of Tuzla on the southeast Mediterranean coast of Turkey.  The coastal dunes on this coast are extremely important for plants supporting some 600 species including the two Turkish endemics Echinops dumanii and Tamarix duezenlii. Seven plant communities have been recognised.

Embryonic Dunes
This first stage of dune development with dune ridges up to 50 cm high is very unstable and periodically inundated by sea water during storms. The sparse vegetation is dominated by the sand binding grass Sporobolus virginicus. Other species include Ipomoea stolonifera, Polygonum equisetiforme, Trachomitum venetum and the endemic Echinops dumanii.

Mobile dunes
These first stages of proper dune development can reach heights of up to 3 m but sand movement and salt spray are still major factors limiting plant growth. Two different zones have been recognized – a zone of Ipomoea stolonifera - Euphorbia paralias (unstable shifting dunes) and a zone of Medicago marina - Pancratium maritimum (white dunes). Other species generally associated with mobile dunes include Cakile maritima, Crepis feotida, Cyperus capitatus, Echium angustifolia, Maresia nana, Senecio vernalis and Xanthium strumarium.

Old Fixed Dunes
In the inland zones relatively stable dunes have developed comprising two vegetation types. These are described as an Echium angustifolium-Cyperus capitatus Mediterranean-Atlantic fixed grey dune, and a Vitis sylvestris-Verbascum sinuatum East Mediterranean fixed grey dune.

The Echium angustifolium-Cyperus capitatus vegetation is characteristic of semi-fixed dunes and represents a transition from white and grey dunes. It comprises mainly herbaceous species and sparse dwarf shrubs. The Vitis sylvestris-Verbascum sinuatum vegetation, on the other hand, is characteristic of fully fixed dunes and supports a larger variety of plant species than any other dune vegetation. The dominant species Vitis sylvestris forms a dense scrub with Cionura erecta, Myrtus communis, Pistacia terebinthus Prasium majus, Rubus sanctus and Trachomitium venetum. Other species include Aegilops speltoides, Anchusa aggregatta, Aster squamatus, Avena wiestii, Brassica tournefortii, Bromus tectorum, Catapodium rigidum, Chondrilla juncea, Cutandia memphitica, Cynodon dactylon, Cyperus capitatus, Echinops ritro, Echium angustifolium, Erodium laciniatum, Euphorbia paralias, Imperata cylindrica, Lonicera etrusca, Maresia nana, Nerium oleander, Phragmites australis, Phuleum subulatum, Piptatherum miliaceum, Polygonum equisetiforme, Saccharum ravennae, Silene kotschyii, Tragopogon longirostris, Triseteria leoflingiana, Vulpia fasciculata and Verbascum sinuatum.

Old Remnant Dunes
Also known as fossil or ancient dunes these are located at the extreme rear end of the dunes where they are often destroyed by intensive agriculture. Two vegetation types have been recognised – one dominated by Pistacia terebinthus and Silene kotschyii, the other by Helianthemum stipulatum and Paronychia argentea.  However, some of these dunes have been disturbed by human activity such as sand extraction, grazing, firewood collection, trampling and agriculture. The former vegetation is largely confined to south facing (solar) slopes that few other species can tolerate. Silene kotschyii is a therophyte while Pistacia terebinthus forms the main shrub layer species. Vegetation dominated by Helianthemum stipulatum and Paronychia argentea is mainly confined to remnant fixed dunes between agricultural fields. Here herbaceous perennial and annual species reach their highest numbers despite the presence of shrubs such as Rubus sanctus, Cionura erecta, Vitis sylvestris and Vitex agnus-castus. Other species generally associated with these remnant dunes include Aegilops speltoides,  Alyssum alyssoides, Ambrossia maritima, Anchusa aggregatta, Asphedelus aestivus, Brassica tournefortii, Crepis feotida, Cuscuta planiflora, Cutandia memphitica, Daucus guttatus, Echinops ritro, Echium angustifolium, Helianthemum stipulatum, Heliotropium  europeum, Fumana thymifolia, Hedypnois cretica, Maresia nana, Medicago littoralis,  Minuartia mesogitana, Paronychia argentea, Parapholis filiformis,  Plantago scabra, Rostraria cristata, Salvia viridis,  Silene pompeipolitana, Spergularia marina, Tragus racemosus, Triseteria leoflingiana and the two eastern Mediterranean endemics Trigonella cephalotes and Trigonella halophila (Fabaceae). 

Further information required.


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