On September 10th, the Donor Council of the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) approved the conservation strategy known as an “ecosystem profile” for the Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity hotspot. This is the final step towards launching CEPF’s US$ 10 million investment in the region.
This process started in December 2008 following a preliminary meeting hosted by Tour du Valat in France. The meeting was attended by a small group of organizations that have been engaged in research and conservation activities in the region, and they concluded that a team spearheaded by Doğa Derneği, the Turkish Nature Association, comprising eleven core organizations including Conservation International, BirdLife International and its partners in the region, IUCN and Plantlife International, should work collectively to develop the profile.
The Mediterranean Basin is the second largest biodiversity hotspot in the world and the largest of the world’s five Mediterranean-climate regions. The hotspot covers more than 2 million square kilometers and stretches west to east from Portugal to Jordan and north to south from northern Italy to Cape Verde. The Mediterranean Basin is the third richest hotspot in the world in terms of its plant diversity with approximately 30,000 plant species. These represent 10 percent of the world’s flora despite the fact that only 5 percent of the natural habitat remains. The hotspot contains more than 13,000 species that are found nowhere else. Many more are being discovered every year.
Given the exceptionally large size and complexity of the region, and the enormity of the task to prepare the ecosystem profile, CEPF was extremely fortunate to receive the generous financial and technical support of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and MAVA Fondation pour la Nature. Also, l’Agence Française de Développement (AFD) provided additional financial support for the plant assessment carried out by Plantlife International, IUCN and WWF International.
The Mediterranean is a thirsty region and effective, sustainable management of the limited freshwater resources is vital for the long-term, especially in the face of the specter that is climate change. There are many drivers that compound this situation however, one stands head and shoulders above the rest -- tourism, the world’s largest industry.
As a result of the combined rich cultural and exceptional natural beauty the Mediterranean Basin is the most visited region in the world, receiving over 220 million tourists a year, which is 32 percent of the world’s tourists, all of whom want to unplug, relax and enjoy themselves, as suits them best. Meeting the demand for luxury accommodations, cruise ships and providing freshwater for resorts and golf courses has already placed a massive strain on the freshwater systems. Yet tourism and associated industries may well hold the key to improving the current situation.
The focus of CEPF’s investment is on sustainable use of freshwater resources and sound coastal zone developments especially in six priority corridors including:
- Southwest Balkans;
- Mountains, Plateaus and Wetlands of Algerian Tell and Tunisia;
- Atlas Mountains;
- Taurus Mountains;
- Cyrenaican Peninsula; and
- Orontes Valley and Lebanon Mountains.
As the crucible of civilization, the Mediterranean Basin Hotspot is a historic, cultural and biological wonder of the world. CEPF will provide a source of funding that is designed to reach civil society in a way that complements funding from government agencies and other donors and inspires innovative conservation activities. The development of this comprehensive ecosystem profile and the CEPF investment strategy was made possible by extensive consultation with stakeholders. It marks an important point in conservation of the region.
Through this process, for the first time, there has been an attempt to assess threats throughout the Mediterranean Basin and to develop a regional strategy to address these—a critical step toward ensuring the future vitality of this natural treasure. It also provides a new opportunity for donors to deliver coordinated support to conservation groups working in the region.