Habitat and Plant Conservation across the Mediterranean Basin in a Global Change Scenario

A special issue of Plants (ISSN 2223-7747). This special issue belongs to the section "Plant Ecology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2023) | Viewed by 10460

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Life and Environmental Sciences (DiSVA), University of Cagliari, 09123 Cagliari, Italy
Interests: plant ecology; plant conservation; monitoring of plant species; mediterranean habitats; mediterranean plant
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Guest Editor
Department of Pharmacology, Pharmacognosy and Botany (Botany Unit), Faculty of Pharmacy, Complutense University, E-28040 Madrid, Spain
Interests: diversity of plant species and communities (habitat types); Mediterranean macroclimate ecosystems (European and Western North American); conservation of plant species and natural/semi-natural habitats; habitat fragmentation

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Plant diversity is declining globally and despite agreed national and international conservation efforts, there is no evidence that this global loss is decelerating, with current estimates indicating a large percentage of habitats and plant species at risk of extinction. Several threats, mainly related to human activities (e.g., urbanization, habitat fragmentation and destruction or degradation of natural ecosystems, abandonment and land use changes, alien invasions, etc.), are recognized as the primary drivers of biodiversity loss. This alarming situation significantly affects several regions of the world, among which is the Mediterranean area, which is one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots at the global scale. In this context, the large-scale conservation policies implemented so far seem ineffective in reducing the loss of habitats and species; this implies an urgent need to develop integrative policies of preservation, focused on a smaller, more local scale approach to preserve habitats and plant species. The Mediterranean area will be particularly exposed in the near future to a greater frequency and magnitude of unpredictable and extreme weather phenomena concentrated in a short period of time, related to the ongoing effects of climate change and/or other stochastic events (i.e., fires), according to climate change scenarios. However, to date, the effects of these factors on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning have been almost entirely neglected and there is a in deep lack of knowledge concerning the influence of these events on species, populations, communities and ecosystems, and their functions. Improving our knowledge on the nature and effects of these threats, in combination with the others studied for some time, it is crucial for supporting the management and conservation of the Mediterranean habitats and flora. In this Special Issue, original research papers, perspectives, opinions, reviews, modelling approaches and methods that can contribute to fill this gap and provide new research ideas for the future are welcome.

Dr. Maria Panitsa
Dr. Giuseppe Fenu
Dr. Daniel Sánchez-Mata
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • habitat and plant conservation
  • Mediterranean habitats
  • Mediterranean flora
  • global change
  • extreme climatic events
  • stochastic events
  • fires
  • international and national conservation policies

Published Papers (5 papers)

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17 pages, 3060 KiB  
Article
Application of Phytosociological Information in the Evaluation of the Management of Protected Areas
by Jaime F. Pereña-Ortiz, Ángel Enrique Salvo-Tierra and Daniel Sánchez-Mata
Plants 2023, 12(2), 406; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12020406 - 15 Jan 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1886
Abstract
The classification system of plant communities using phytosociological methods can be applied to their conservation in protected areas, as well as in establishing adequate protections and granting legal status to such areas. A new integrative index is developed to classify plant communities for [...] Read more.
The classification system of plant communities using phytosociological methods can be applied to their conservation in protected areas, as well as in establishing adequate protections and granting legal status to such areas. A new integrative index is developed to classify plant communities for the evaluation of the conservation status of protected areas, obtained from the product of three statistical indices of diversity: Syntaxonomic Distinctness, Rarefaction and Areas Prioritisation, which has been named DRA (acronym of the three indices used). The DRA is used to assess whether the status granted to Protected Areas matches the values provided by the plant communities within them and which were the basis for the identification and description of the Habitats of Community Interest (Habitats Directive—92/43/CEE). The proposed method was applied to the network of protected natural areas on the Andalusian coast, including 14 areas with different protection status, where, once the plant communities they contain were identified, the DRA index was applied to each of them and compared with the Legal Protection Index, i.e., the current protection regime; it becomes clear, objectively, that not all the statuses assigned, whether the IUCN criteria or those of the Andalusian government, correspond to the real levels of protection they should have on the basis of their plant communities. Full article
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27 pages, 30838 KiB  
Article
Climate and Land-Cover Change Impacts and Extinction Risk Assessment of Rare and Threatened Endemic Taxa of Chelmos-Vouraikos National Park (Peloponnese, Greece)
by Konstantinos Kougioumoutzis, Panayiotis Trigas, Maria Tsakiri, Ioannis P. Kokkoris, Eleni Koumoutsou, Panayotis Dimopoulos, Dimitris Tzanoudakis, Gregoris Iatrou and Maria Panitsa
Plants 2022, 11(24), 3548; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11243548 - 15 Dec 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1907
Abstract
Chelmos-Vouraikos National Park is a floristic diversity and endemism hotspot in Greece and one of the main areas where Greek endemic taxa, preliminary assessed as critically endangered and threatened under the IUCN Criteria A and B, are mainly concentrated. The climate and land-cover [...] Read more.
Chelmos-Vouraikos National Park is a floristic diversity and endemism hotspot in Greece and one of the main areas where Greek endemic taxa, preliminary assessed as critically endangered and threatened under the IUCN Criteria A and B, are mainly concentrated. The climate and land-cover change impacts on rare and endemic species distributions is more prominent in regional biodiversity hotspots. The main aims of the current study were: (a) to investigate how climate and land-cover change may alter the distribution of four single mountain endemics and three very rare Peloponnesian endemic taxa of the National Park via a species distribution modelling approach, and (b) to estimate the current and future extinction risk of the aforementioned taxa based on the IUCN Criteria A and B, in order to investigate the need for designing an effective plant micro-reserve network and to support decision making on spatial planning efforts and conservation research for a sustainable, integrated management. Most of the taxa analyzed are expected to continue to be considered as critically endangered based on both Criteria A and B under all land-cover/land-use scenarios, GCM/RCP and time-period combinations, while two, namely Alchemilla aroanica and Silene conglomeratica, are projected to become extinct in most future climate change scenarios. When land-cover/land-use data were included in the analyses, these negative effects were less pronounced. However, Silene conglomeratica, the rarest mountain endemic found in the study area, is still expected to face substantial range decline. Our results highlight the urgent need for the establishment of micro-reserves for these taxa. Full article
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21 pages, 5201 KiB  
Article
The Fate of Endemic Species Specialized in Island Habitat under Climate Change in a Mediterranean High Mountain
by Antonio J. Mendoza-Fernández, Ángel Fernández-Ceular, Domingo Alcaraz-Segura, Miguel Ballesteros and Julio Peñas
Plants 2022, 11(23), 3193; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11233193 - 22 Nov 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2137
Abstract
Mediterranean high-mountain endemic species are particularly vulnerable to climatic changes in temperature, precipitation and snow-cover dynamics. Sierra Nevada (Spain) is a biodiversity hotspot in the western Mediterranean, with an enormous plant species richness and endemicity. Moehringia fontqueri is a threatened endemic plant restricted [...] Read more.
Mediterranean high-mountain endemic species are particularly vulnerable to climatic changes in temperature, precipitation and snow-cover dynamics. Sierra Nevada (Spain) is a biodiversity hotspot in the western Mediterranean, with an enormous plant species richness and endemicity. Moehringia fontqueri is a threatened endemic plant restricted to north-facing siliceous rocks along a few ridges of the eastern Sierra Nevada. To guide conservation actions against climate change effects, here we propose the simultaneous assessment of the current reproductive success and the possible species’ range changes between current and future climatic conditions, assessing separately different subpopulations by altitude. Reproductive success was tested through the seed-set data analysis. The species’ current habitat suitability was modeled in Maxent using species occurrences, topographic, satellite and climatic variables. Future habitat suitability was carried out for two climatic scenarios (RCP 2.6 and 8.5). The results showed the lowest reproductive success at the lowest altitudes, and vice versa at the highest altitudes. Habitat suitability decreased by 80% from current conditions to the worst-case scenario (RCP 8.5). The lowest subpopulations were identified as the most vulnerable to climate change effects while the highest ones were the nearest to future suitable habitats. Our simultaneous assessment of reproductive success and habitat suitability aims to serve as a model to guide conservation, management and climate change mitigation strategies through adaptive management to safeguard the persistence of the maximum genetic pool of Mediterranean high-mountain plants threatened by climate change. Full article
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21 pages, 1874 KiB  
Article
Diversity of Molluscan Assemblage in Relation to Biotic and Abiotic Variables in Brown Algal Forests
by Martina Orlando-Bonaca, Domen Trkov, Katja Klun and Valentina Pitacco
Plants 2022, 11(16), 2131; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11162131 - 16 Aug 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1901
Abstract
Canopy-forming macroalgae, mainly those belonging to the order Fucales, form the so-called brown algal forests, which are among the most productive assemblages in shallow coastal zones. Their vertical, branching canopies increase nearshore primary production, provide nursery areas for juvenile fish, and sustain understory [...] Read more.
Canopy-forming macroalgae, mainly those belonging to the order Fucales, form the so-called brown algal forests, which are among the most productive assemblages in shallow coastal zones. Their vertical, branching canopies increase nearshore primary production, provide nursery areas for juvenile fish, and sustain understory assemblages of smaller algae and both sessile and vagile fauna. The majority of benthic invertebrates inhabiting these forests have larval stages that spend some time floating freely or swimming in the plankton. Therefore, canopy-forming macroalgae play an important role as species collectors related to larval supply and hydrodynamic processes. During the past several decades, brown algal forests have significantly reduced their extension and coverage in the Mediterranean basin, due to multiple interacting natural and anthropogenic pressures, with negative consequences also for the related fauna. The aim of this research was to examine how differences in macrophyte abundance and structure, as well as environmental variables, affect the associated molluscan communities in the shallow northern Adriatic Sea. Sampling sites with well-developed vegetation cover dominated by different canopy-forming species were selected in the shallow infralittoral belt of the northern Adriatic Sea in the spring–summer period of the years 2019 and 2020. Our results confirm the importance of algal forests for molluscan assemblage, with a total of 68 taxa of molluscs found associated with macrophytes. Gastropods showed the highest richness and abundance, followed by bivalves. Mollusc richness and diversity (in terms of biotic indices) were not related with the degree of development of canopy-forming species (in terms of total cover and total volume), nor with the ecological status of benthic macroalgae at different depths. On the contrary, the variability in molluscan taxa abundances was explained by some environmental variables, such as temperature, pH, light, and nitrates concentration. Full article
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6 pages, 250 KiB  
Perspective
The IUCN Green Status of Species: A Call for Mediterranean Botanists to Contribute to This New Ambitious Effort
by Donatella Cogoni, Molly K. Grace, Barney Long, Simone Orsenigo and Giuseppe Fenu
Plants 2022, 11(19), 2592; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11192592 - 1 Oct 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1453
Abstract
In the Mediterranean Basin, a critical focal point for the conservation of plant diversity, there has been a large increase in practical conservation actions for many plant species to prevent extinction and to improve their conservation status; quantifying the effectiveness of these initiatives [...] Read more.
In the Mediterranean Basin, a critical focal point for the conservation of plant diversity, there has been a large increase in practical conservation actions for many plant species to prevent extinction and to improve their conservation status; quantifying the effectiveness of these initiatives in reversing species declines is urgently important. In 2021, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) launched a new tool that allows the impact of conservation actions on plant species to be assessed. The Green Status of Species is a new set of metrics under the Red List of Threatened Species that assigns species to recovery categories, complementary to the classic extinction risk categories. Crucially, the Green Status of Species provides methods to evaluate the impact of past conservation, and the potential for future conservation impact, on species status and recovery in a standardized way. Considering the efforts made so far for the conservation of Mediterranean threatened plants, using the Green Status of Species would be highly useful to direct future conservation policies. We, therefore, encourage botanists and practitioners working on threatened plants in the Mediterranean area to use this new assessment tool to inform conservation and recovery programs. Full article
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