Freshwater biodiversity in the rivers of the Mediterranean Basin
We review the diversity of freshwater organisms in the Mediterranean Basin (hereafter Med), particularly from streams and rivers. We present available information on the richness, endemicity, and distribution of each freshwater organism group within the Med, and make a comparison with Palearctic diversity. Approximately 35% of known Palearctic freshwater species and more than 6% of the World’s freshwater species are present in the Med. A high degree of endemicity is found in the Med freshwater biota. These data, together with the degree to which many freshwater species are threatened, support the inclusion of the Med among World biodiversity hotspots. Nevertheless, knowledge of Med biodiversity is still incomplete, particularly for some taxa. Regarding to the spatial distribution of species within the Med, the richest area is the North, although patterns differ among groups. A comparison of the ecological and biological traits of endemic and non-endemic species of three riverine groups (Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera) revealed that endemic species have several strategies and mechanisms to face typical mediterranean-climate conditions, such as drought, when compared to non-endemic species. We briefly analyse the conservation status of the region’s biodiversity. Finally, we present some future challenges regarding the knowledge and protection of Med freshwater biodiversity.