California is prized for its hot, dry summers and mellow, rainy winters. These mild climate conditions exist in only four other regions around the world—South Africa’s western cape, central Chile, southwestern Australia, and the Mediterranean Basin itself—making them magnets for human development. Though covering just 2 percent of all dry land, these areas are home to up to 20 percent of the world’s higher plant species. Yet nearly 40 percent of these biodiversity hotspots have been converted into farms and cities, leaving Mediterranean-type habitats among the most endangered on earth.
To help these five regions meet common environmental challenges, the UC Natural Reserve System has organized a group of scientists devoted to conserving Mediterranean ecosystems. The Mediterranean-Type Ecosystems Thematic Group, or MTEG, is composed of experts in Mediterranean ecosystem management and biodiversity protection.
“This new NRS initiative seeks to broaden the reach of the research and teaching that occurs at our reserves,” says Chen Yin Noah, associate director of the NRS. “MTEG will further the mission of the NRS: to contribute to the wise management and stewardship of the earth.” Noah co-leads MTEG together with NRS director Peggy Fiedler.
MTEG is part of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the world’s oldest and largest global environmental network. IUCN members include more than 1,000 member organizations such as sovereign nations, government agencies, and NGOs, as well as over 11,000 volunteer member scientists. The IUCN supports scientific research, manages field projects around the world, and brings governments, NGOs, UN agencies, communities together to solve pressing environment and development problems. The IUCN holds Official Observer Status at the United Nations General Assembly.
The 52 founding members of MTEG hail from from 19 countries around the world, including Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Croatia, Israel, Turkey, Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Portugal, Chile, South Africa, Australia, India, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Scientists from all five Mediterranean-climate regions are represented.
The members will provide guidance on the management of Mediterranean climate ecosystems, promoting biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. The group aims to encourage cross-disciplinary scientific research, train future conservation professionals, and educate the public about common problems threatening Mediterranean regions. These include the encroachment of similar invasive species, the onslaught of climate change, alterations in fire regimes, and the conversion of wildlands to development.
MTEG emerged from a previous NRS initiative to protect Mediterranean habitats. In 2010, NRS director Peggy Fiedler inaugurated an international consortium of Mediterranean ecosystem land managers. The Mediterranean Reserve Managers International Cooperative provides a means for field station managers, land stewards, and leading research scientists to discuss common problems, share information about best practices, and participate in exchange fellowships. Many cooperative participants, including a number of NRS reserve managers, have become founding members of MTEG.
By participating in MTEG, the NRS encourages the development of best practices for managing threatened ecosystems in California and beyond. The group will raise awareness of the NRS in the conservation arena, and expand the professional expertise and resources available to NRS managers.
The NRS has already partnered with the IUCN in the past. The NRS participated in the organization’s International Year of Biodiversity, and was one of 20 featured success stories within the group’s Countdown 2010 initiative.
“To protect Mediterranean-type habitats, we need the best ideas the world can offer,” the NRS’s Noah says.