The Mediterranean basin stretches c.3,800 km east to west from the tip of Portugal to the shores of Lebanon and c.1,000 km north to south from Italy to Morocco and Libya. Within the European Union, the Mediterranean Region encompasses seven Member States either partially (France, Portugal, Italy, Spain) or completely (Greece, Malta, Cyprus).
The climate is characterised by hot dry summers and humid, cool winters but it can also be notoriously capricious with sudden torrential downpours or bouts of high winds (eg the Sirocco, the Mistral) occurring at various times of the year. These climatic conditions have a profound infl uence on the vegetation and wildlife of the region.
The Mediterranean Region is however under tremendous pressure from humans. It is the number one tourism destination in the world. As a result much of the Mediterranean coastline has disappeared under concrete and there is a constant threat of forest fi res and chronic water shortages. Inland many of the ancient pastoral regimes are being abandoned because they are no longer economically viable.