In the Mediterranean region, the issue of high ecological value often arises in more complex way than in other types of forests, boreal, temperate or tropical.
In forests scarcely marked by strong anthropic actions, sylvigenesis can be expressed quite naturally, and change ecosystems towards high ecological value states, primarily governed by natural disturbances.
Instead, forests and other wooded areas of the Mediterranean basin are submitted, at least since Neolithic times, to extremely strong anthropogenic disturbances: grazing from many animals (sheep, goats, cattle, pigs), tillage and cultivation for more or less long periods, voluntary fires, exploitation or overexploitation of wood and non-wood products. With their remarkable resilience, these woodlands can experience quite remarkable “biological comebacks” when anthropogenic pressures loosen for a cause or another.
The high ecological value of some Mediterranean forest and wooded areas thus results from the interaction between many natural and human factors, following a very complex dynamic. The abandonment of traditional agro-forestry-pastoral uses may give way to a natural dynamic that turns formerly anthropised areas into forests in spontaneous evolution, with varying ecological values through time. Current climate changes further add to this complexity.
The project MEDFORVAL, “Network of forested areas of High ecological value”, aims to create a collaboration between practitioners and decision-makers from different sectors in the Mediterranean on concrete action to protect, manage or restore the ecological values of their respective sites, through networking. Adding up to 15 to 20, these Mediterranean forest sites of high ecological value will be grouped into four clusters, which correspond to four types of Mediterranean forests, and in which specific actions will be undertaken and proposals for future projects developed.
High ecological value is a concept somewhat insufficiently developed and spread; the project will help better define it, and disseminate it to the greatest number. A basis for reflection was developed during a workshop of experts in September 2014, from three attributes of forested areas: dynamics and ecosystem functioning (free or managed), age and maturity, diversity (vulnerability - rarity, wealth).
Three results are expected in this project:
- Result 1: By year 1, 15-20 Mediterranean forest sites of HEV are identified, connected through a network and are working together to exchange best practices, knowledge and expertise
- Result 2: By year 3, members of the HEV network are exchanging best practices, knowledge and expertise; in 3-4 sites pilot actions have been implemented and at least 4 proposals have been developed.
- Result 3: By year 3, the ecological values of and threats to Mediterranean forests are widely disseminated, and are promoted at international fora among decision-makers from different sectors.
The MEDFORVAL network that will result from this project will in particular bring to its members added value in the following four major areas: research and development, popularisation, international voice, training (theoretical and practical) and exchanges.