Eastern Mediterranean Dunes (Greece)

In the Evrotas Delta (Southeastern Peloponnisos) in the Lakonikos Gulf the delta developed from sediment transported by the River Evrotas. Four sand dune vegetation types have been recognised here.

Embryonic shifting dunes
These low sparsely vegetated dunes dominated by Ammophila arenaria and Cakile maritima form the first evolutionary stage of the sand dune development. Other common species include Anthemis tomentosa, Cyperus capitatus, Elymus farctus, Eryngium maritimum, Euphorbia peplis, Pancratium maritimum, Salsola kali, Sporobolus pungens and Xanthium strumarium.

White shifting dunes with Ammophila arenaria
In these relatively unstable dunes the sand binding grass Ammophila arenaria becomes much more common. The dunes can reach heights of over 4 m, but their floristic composition is very similar to embryonic dunes and typically include Anthemis tomentosa, Cyperus capitatus, Elymus farctus, Euphorbia paralias, Euphorbia peplis, Eryngium maritimum, Medicago marina, Pancratium maritimum, Silene colorata, Sporobolus pungens and in the hollows Saccharum ravennae.

Fixed dunes with herbaceous vegetation (grey dunes)
These stabilized inland dunes typically have full cover of permanent vegetation characterised by various herbaceous plants, together with a number of woody species and lichens. Dune stability is also helped by increased levels of organic matter which improves water retention and soil cohesion. Common species include Anagallis foemina, Avena sterilis, Briza maxima, Bromus hordeaceus, Cynosurus echinatus, Erodium cicutarium, Hordeum murinum, Juncus conglomeratus, Lagurus ovatus, Matricaria recutita, Nerium oleander, Petrorhagia dubia, Silene colorata, Trifolium angustifolium, and Vitex agnus-castus. Others are Aira elegantissima, Anagallis arvensis, Astragalus spruneri, Geranium dissectum, Knautia integrifolia, Lagurus ovatus, Melilotus indicus, Onobrychis caput-galli, Scaligeria napiformis and Vicia sativa subsp. nigra.

Dune scrub
Evergreen, sclerophyllous scrub forms a dense unbroken canopy up to 3 m high and represents the final stage in the succession of vegetation on these dunes. The main species is Pistacia lentiscus. Other typical taxa include Calicotome villosa, Ceratonia siliqua, Clematis flammula, Myrtus communis, Prasium majus, Pyrus spinosa, Rubus sanctus, Smilax aspera and Vitex agnus-castus

Eastern Mediterranean Dunes (Turkey)

The study site here is located close to the village of Tuzla on the southeast Mediterranean coast of Turkey.  The coastal dunes on this coast are extremely important for plants supporting some 600 species including the two Turkish endemics Echinops dumanii and Tamarix duezenlii. Seven plant communities have been recognised.

Embryonic Dunes
This first stage of dune development with dune ridges up to 50 cm high is very unstable and periodically inundated by sea water during storms. The sparse vegetation is dominated by the sand binding grass Sporobolus virginicus. Other species include Ipomoea stolonifera, Polygonum equisetiforme, Trachomitum venetum and the endemic Echinops dumanii.

Mobile dunes
These first stages of proper dune development can reach heights of up to 3 m but sand movement and salt spray are still major factors limiting plant growth. Two different zones have been recognized – a zone of Ipomoea stolonifera - Euphorbia paralias (unstable shifting dunes) and a zone of Medicago marina - Pancratium maritimum (white dunes). Other species generally associated with mobile dunes include Cakile maritima, Crepis feotida, Cyperus capitatus, Echium angustifolia, Maresia nana, Senecio vernalis and Xanthium strumarium.

Old Fixed Dunes
In the inland zones relatively stable dunes have developed comprising two vegetation types. These are described as an Echium angustifolium-Cyperus capitatus Mediterranean-Atlantic fixed grey dune and a Vitis sylvestris-Verbascum sinuatum East Mediterranean fixed grey dune.

The Echium angustifolium-Cyperus capitatus vegetation is characteristic of semi-fixed dunes and represents a transition from white and grey dunes. It comprises mainly herbaceous species and sparse dwarf shrubs. The Vitis sylvestris-Verbascum sinuatum vegetation, on the other hand, is characteristic of fully fixed dunes and supports a larger variety of plant species than any other dune vegetation. The dominant species Vitis sylvestris forms a dense scrub with Cionura erecta, Myrtus communis, Pistacia terebinthus Prasium majus, Rubus sanctus and Trachomitium venetum. Other species include Aegilops speltoides, Anchusa aggregatta, Aster squamatus, Avena wiestii, Brassica tournefortii, Bromus tectorum, Catapodium rigidum, Chondrilla juncea, Cutandia memphitica, Cynodon dactylon, Cyperus capitatus, Echinops ritro, Echium angustifolium, Erodium laciniatum, Euphorbia paralias, Imperata cylindrica, Lonicera etrusca, Maresia nana, Nerium oleander, Phragmites australis, Phuleum subulatum, Piptatherum miliaceum, Polygonum equisetiforme, Saccharum ravennae, Silene kotschyii, Tragopogon longirostris, Triseteria leoflingiana, Vulpia fasciculata and Verbascum sinuatum.

Old Remnant Dunes
Also known as fossil or ancient dunes these are located at the extreme rear end of the dunes where they are often destroyed by intensive agriculture. Two vegetation types have been recognised – one dominated by Pistacia terebinthus and Silene kotschyii, the other by Helianthemum stipulatum and Paronychia argentea.  However, some of these dunes have been disturbed by human activity such as sand extraction, grazing, firewood collection, trampling and agriculture. The former vegetation is largely confined to south facing (solar) slopes that few other species can tolerate. Silene kotschyii is a therophyte while Pistacia terebinthus forms the main shrub layer species. Vegetation dominated by Helianthemum stipulatum and Paronychia argentea is mainly confined to remnant fixed dunes between agricultural fields. Here herbaceous perennial and annual species reach their highest numbers despite the presence of shrubs such as Rubus sanctus, Cionura erecta, Vitis sylvestris and Vitex agnus-castus. Other species generally associated with these remnant dunes include Aegilops speltoides,  Alyssum alyssoides, Ambrossia maritima, Anchusa aggregatta, Asphedelus aestivus, Brassica tournefortii, Crepis feotida, Cuscuta planiflora, Cutandia memphitica, Daucus guttatus, Echinops ritro, Echium angustifolium, Helianthemum stipulatum, Heliotropium  europeum, Fumana thymifolia, Hedypnois cretica, Maresia nana, Medicago littoralis,  Minuartia mesogitana, Paronychia argentea, Parapholis filiformis,  Plantago scabra, Rostraria cristata, Salvia viridis,  Silene pompeipolitana, Spergularia marina, Tragus racemosus, Triseteria leoflingiana and the two eastern Mediterranean endemics Trigonella cephalotes and Trigonella halophila (Fabaceae). 

Western Mediterranean Dunes (Balearic Islands)

Sand dunes on the Balearic Islands are typical of much of the Mediterranean. On the foredunes Elytrigia juncea and Sporobolus pungens are the main sand binding grasses. Somewhat further inland on the mobile dunes Ammophila arenaria subsp. arundinacea becomes the main grass species. In the more stable dunes a scrub community dominated by Crucianella maritima often develops with species such as Helichryson stoechas, Pancratium maritima and Teucrium belion. A less common species of this zone is the endemic dwarf shrub Thymelaea myrtifolia (Thymelaeaceae).


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