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Geography of the Mediterranean Sea

Learn Information about the Mediterranean Sea

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Mediterranean Sea

Straits of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea seen from the Space Shuttle.

Digital Vision/Getty Images
Updated May 08, 2014

The Mediterranean Sea is a large sea or body of water that is located between Europe, northern Africa and southwestern Asia. Its total area is 970,000 square miles (2,500,000 sq km) and its greatest depth is located off the coast of Greece at around 16,800 feet (5,121 m) deep. The average depth of the sea however is about 4,900 feet (1,500 m). The Mediterranean Sea is connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the narrow Strait of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco . This area is only about 14 miles (22 km) wide.

The Mediterranean Sea is known for being an important historic trade and a strong factor in the development of the region around it.

History of the Mediterranean Sea

The region around the Mediterranean Sea has a long history that dates back to ancient times. For example, Stone Age tools have been discovered by archeologists along its shores and it is believed that the Egyptians began sailing on it by 3000 B.C.E. Early people of the region used the Mediterranean as a trade route and as a way to move to and colonize other regions. As a result, the sea was controlled by several different ancient civilizations. These include the Minoan, Phoenician, Greek and later the Roman civilizations.

In the 5th century C.E. however, Rome fell and the Mediterranean Sea and the region around it became controlled by the Byzantines, Arabs and Ottoman Turks. By the 12th century trade in the region was growing as Europeans began exploration expeditions. In the late 1400s though, trade traffic in the region decreased when European traders discovered new, all water trade routes to India and the Far East. In 1869 however the Suez Canal opened and trade traffic again increased.

In addition, the opening of the Suez Canal the Mediterranean Sea also became an important strategic location for many European nations and as a result the United Kingdom and France began building colonies and naval bases along its shores. Today the Mediterranean is one of the busiest seas in the world. Trade and shipping traffic is prominent and there are is also a significant amount of fishing activity in its waters. In addition, tourism is also a large part of the region's economy because of its climate, beaches, cities and historic sites.

Geography of the Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean Sea is a very large sea that is bounded by Europe, Africa and Asia and stretches from the Strait of Gibraltar on the west to the Dardanelles and the Suez Canal on the east. It is almost completely enclosed aside from these narrow locations. Because it is almost landlocked the Mediterranean has very limited tides and it is warmer and saltier than the Atlantic Ocean. This is because evaporation exceeds precipitation and runoff and circulation of the sea's waters does not occur as easily as it would if were more connected to the ocean, however, enough water flows into the sea from the Atlantic Ocean that is water level does not fluctuate much.

Geographically, the Mediterranean Sea is divided into two different basins - the Western Basin and the Eastern Basin. The Western Basin extends from the Cape of Trafalgar in Spain and the Cape of Spartel in Africa in the west to Tunisia's Cape Bon in the east. The Eastern Basin stretches from eastern boundary of the Western Basin to the coasts of Syria and Palestine.

In total the Mediterranean Sea borders 21 different nations as well as several different territories. Some of the nations with borders along the Mediterranean include Spain, France, Monaco, Malta, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco. It also borders several smaller seas and is home to over 3,000 islands. The largest of these islands are Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Cyprus and Crete.

The topography of the land surrounding the Mediterranean Sea is varied and there is an extremely rugged coastline in is northern areas. High mountains and steep, rocky cliffs are common here. In other areas though the coastline is flatter and dominated by desert. The temperature of the Mediterranean's water also varies but in general it is between 50˚F and 80˚F (10˚C and 27˚C).

Ecology of and Threats to the Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean Sea has a large number of different fish and mammal species that are mainly derived from the Atlantic Ocean. However, because the Mediterranean is warmer and saltier than the Atlantic, these species have had to adapt. Harbor porpoises, Bottlenose Dolphins and Loggerhead Sea Turtles are common in the sea.

There are a number of threats to biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea though. Invasive species is one of the most common threats as ships from other regions often bring in nonnative species and Red Sea water and species enter the Mediterranean at the Suez Canal. Pollution is also a problem as cities on the coasts of the Mediterranean have dumped chemicals and waste into the sea in recent years. Overfishing is another threat to the Mediterranean Sea's biodiversity and ecology as is tourism because both are putting strains on the natural environment.

References

How Stuff Works. (n.d.). How Stuff Works - "The Mediterranean Sea." Retrieved from: http://geography.howstuffworks.com/oceans-and-seas/the-mediterranean-sea.htm

Wikipedia.org. (18 April 2011). Mediterranean Sea - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediterranean_Sea

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