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Mediterranean island biodiversity and climate change: the last 10,000 years and the future

Vogiatzakis, I. N., Mannion, A. M., Sarris, D.
Biodiversity and conservation 2016 v.25 no.13 pp. 2597-2627
basins, biodiversity, biogeography, climate change, climate models, coasts, ecosystems, habitats, indigenous species, islands, land use change, landscapes, phenology, planning, plant communities, topography, tourism, Mediterranean Islands
Mediterranean islands (MI) are hotspots of global biodiversity and lie in one of the most susceptible to climate change (CC) areas of the world; a big challenge for any conservation strategy. In fact, there is already increasing evidence for CC in the region and associated biological responses in MI ecosystems. These include phenological changes and upward elevation shifts of species and plant communities; although evidence is frequently contrasting for different taxa. Threats are also evident, mainly for endemic species from most taxonomic groups, while communities in mountain and coastal regions are likely to be affected most. For MI conservation under CC additional factors need to be considered: (i) their position at the crossroads of three continents; with which they share common environmental characteristics, (ii) their great variability in sizes and topography and (iii) their climatic differences; with a clear west-east basin divide. CC synergies with changing tourist aspiration and agricultural practices will, in the medium term, modify island landscapes and provide further challenges for biodiversity conservation. Such a combined impact from CC, land-use change, fragmentation of habitats and tourism is difficult to predict. Furthermore, the limited space on islands (especially habitat availability and climatic range limitations) imposes a barrier to species range expansion. Thus, conservation of MI biodiversity under CC requires: (i) future research to focus on improved climate predictions linked to improved understanding of ecological (climate-biotic) responses, incorporating lessons learnt from (island) biogeography, (ii) specific adaptation measures for spatial planning and improvement in regional institutional capacities.