Habitat Types - Virtual Biodiversity Museum of Cyprus

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Habitat Types


Cyprus is an island with diverse landscapes, due to both its varied climate and geology and the presence of man since 8200 AD. High forests cover about 17% of the island, extending mainly on the Troodos and Pentadactylos ranges. The lower hills are covered by shrubs alternating with built-up areas and cultivations. The plains of the lowlands, like the Mesaoria plain and the coastal zone are covered by cultivations (about 45% of the island) and settlements, but large or small areas of natural to semi-natural vegetation can be found locally.

The vegetation types, natural or not, including cultivations (especially traditional ones), constitute important habitats for rare plants.

The thermophilous Calabrian pine (Pinus brutia) forms the most extended forests, from sea level up to about 1400 m, and covers the Troodos and Pentadactylos mountain ranges and part of Akamas Peninsula. Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) forests occur mainly on Pentadactylos. The semi-deciduous shrub Quercus infectoria subsp. veneris forms only remnant stands at the western part of the island. The Pinus nigra subsp. pallasiana forest, the endemic Cedrus brevifolia forest and stands of mountainous junipers  (Juniperus foetidissima, Juniperus, Juniperus)  are restricted to the higher altitudes of Troodos. The golden oak (Quercus alnifolia) occurs in the understory of conifers or in pure stands, at altitude of 700 m, mostly across the Troodos range.

Various types of scrubs are dominant in the thermo-Mediterranean and semi-arid zones. Maquis consist of Olea europaea and Ceratonia siliqua, as well as tall Quercus coccifera subsp. calliprinos (which are rather rare). One the other hand, open dwarf scrub called garigue (phrygana) is the most common vegetation type. Juniperus phoenicea matorral is typical of the coastal zone.

Dry grasslands develop in pastures and in scrub and forest openings. A unique peat grassland (a fen) occurs in only two locations on Troodos, at 1600 -1650 m.

The sandy coastal zone is generally narrow, with ammophilous communities on low embryonic and shifting dunes. Extended dune systems, including stabilised dunes with shrubs and dune slacks, develop in few places (e.g. Apostolos Andreas at Karpasia and Akamas), notably in connection with halophytic wetlands, i.e. Famagusta, Agia Eirini and the Salt Lakes of Akrotiri and Larnaka.

A discontinuous and mostly narrow line of riparian shrub and forest develops along the numerous streams that flow through the island, often in the midst of cultivated land. Standing freshwater bodies are only artificial storage basins and dams, yet hydrophilous vegetation has established at most of them.

The rocky habitats include chasmophytic communities developing on limestone (Akamas, Pentadactylos), ultramaffic rock (Troodos) and wet rocks, and also endemic serpentinophilous chamaephytic communities (Troodos, Akamas and Lemesos Forest).

This great diversity in landscapes and habitat types is reflected on the number of different habitat types existing in Cyprus that are included in the Appendix I of the European Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). More specifically, 52 different habitat types of Annex I of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) have been identified in Cyprus, out of which five exist exclusively in the island.

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