Mediterranean ecosystems are limited to five relatively small areas around the planet: the region bordering the Mediterranean Sea, central Chile, the Cape region of South Africa, southwestern and southern Australia, and California south to northern Baja California. These ecosystems largely occur along the western edges of continents between the 30° and 40° parallels in both northern and southern hemispheres. The climate, moderated by cold ocean currents offshore, is characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters.
Throughout the world, the Mediterranean climate region is characterized by evergreen or drought deciduous shrublands. The chaparral of southern California is echoed in the old world Mediterranen maquis, the Chilean matorral, South African fynbos and the Australian mallee scrub communities. Due to the limited extent (covering only 2.2 percent of Earth’s land surface) and isolation (almost island-like) of the Mediterranean climate region, there is an extraordinary high biodiversity of uniquely adapted animal and plant species.
The Mediterranean climate region have been highly favored and impacted by humans for habitation, agriculture and recreation and as a result, are one of the most highly altered on the planet and contain the least amount of undisturbed area of any ecosystem.
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