Aquatic Plants

Aim

A project to assess the conservation status of 454 aquatic plant species and 19 subspecies that are found in the Mediterranean was carried out from 2007 to 2010 as a collaboration between the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation and Tour du Valat. The aim was to identify those Hydrophytes and Helophytes that are threatened with extinction at regional level according to the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria in order to provide guidance for improving their conservation status.

 
 
Eryngium atlanticum an endemic plant of Morocco that is classed as Near Threatened (NT). Photo © Laila Rhazi

Geographical scope

The Mediterranean region was defined in terms of freshwater hydrosystems by identifying all catchments of rivers flowing into the Mediterranean Sea as well as in the adjacent Atlantic waters of Spain, Portugal and Morocco.

Status assessment

The status of all species was assessed using the IUCN Red List Criteria (IUCN 2001), and following the Guidelines for Application of IUCN Red List Criteria at Regional Levels (IUCN 2003). The assessments were peer-reviewed by other experts during three workshops in Portugal (2007), Tunisia (2009) and France (2010) and through correspondence with relevant experts.

Results

Mediterranean Aquatic Plants statistic overview  

73 of the 473 species that have been assessed are threatened with extinction (CR, EN or VU) and another 58 are Near Threatened (NT). One species, Laurembergia tetrandra, is listed as Regionally Extinct (RE). Of the assessed species, nearly one third are endemic to the Mediterranean region. Of those endemics, 55 are threatened and 40 are Near Threatened (NT).

The 473 species that have been assessed in this project do not include all the known Mediterranean aquatic plant species. There are considerable gaps in the species list especially in the eastern Mediterranean including Greece and Turkey, countries that are known for their high number of endemic plant species. Therefore, it is suspected that the number of threatened species is higher than presented here. This caveat has to be taken into consideration when using the data.

Habitat loss and degradation are the main threats to those Mediterranean aquatic plants that have been assessed. The construction of houses and tourism infrastructure lead to direct habitat loss. The drainage of wetlands for infrastructure projects but also for agriculture and other reasons is leading to severe habitat degradation and therefore population declines. Moreover, recreational activities in wetlands affect aquatic plants in negative ways. An increase in the frequency of droughts and problematic native species that are competing with aquatic plants also impact the conservation status of the species.

For more information

Download the Red List of Mediterranean Aquatic Plants in English.