MEDUSA : a Mediterranean Network
Conservation and Sustainable Use of Wild Plants of the Mediterranean Region

13 April 2003

par Web Team

The first objective of the MEDUSA Network is the identification of native and naturalized plants of the Mediterranean Region, currently being used in some way.

The Mediterranean region is one of the world’s major centers of plant diversity, housing approximately 25,000 species, about half of which are endemic to the region. It is one of the most important of the eight centers of cultivated plant origin and diversity identified by Vavilov who listed over 80 crops from the region, the most important of which are the cereal crops, pulses, fruit trees, and vegetables. Also found are many native species that are economically less important including notably medicinal and aromatic plants, herbs and spice-producing plants, neglected horticultural crops such as Eruca sativa, Lepidium sativum, Portulaca oleracea, Smyrnium olusatrum, Scolymus hispanicus, and ornamentals, all of which play an important role in local cultures. Some of these may well be worth consideration for further development and improvement as crops suitable for marginal areas. Many crop relatives occur in the Mediterranean basin.

The traditional use of wild plants assumes that such plant resources will continue to be available without any specific action to ensure this. However, as noted in the FAO Global Plan of Action, current programs for conservation research and development tend to neglect these species and no concerted effort has been made to ensure their continued availability in the face of the threats posed by over-exploitation caused by increasing demand, increasing human population and extensive destruction of the plant-rich habitats of the Mediterra-nean ecosystems.

To address these issues, a network on the "Identification, Conservation and Use of Wild Plants in the Mediterranean Region" called MEDUSA, was formally established in June 1996, by CIHEAM (Centre Inter-national des Hautes Etudes Agronomiques Méditerranéennes) and its constituent organ MAICh (Mediterra-nean Agronomic Institute of Chania). The Network is financially supported partly by the Directorate General I of the European Union and partly by CIHEAM.

The eventual aim of the Network is to propose methods for the economic and social development of rural areas of the Mediterranean Region, using ecologically-based management systems that will ensure the sustainable use and conservation of plant resources of the area. These plant genetic resources are of actual or potential importance to agriculture, various industries, and human health, and consequently will improve the quality of life. The particular goal of the Network, is the exploration of possibilities for the sustainable utili-zation of such resources as alternative crops for the diversification of agricultural production for improved product quality. This will involve a considerable amount of prior survey work regarding those wild species that are currently used in the region, whether through wild harvesting or through small-scale cultivation of semi-domesticated material.

The Network will contribute to the implementation of the FAO Global Plan of Action agreed at Leipzig in 1996, especially with regard to the conservation and sustainable use of underexploited wild species, and to the Decision XII/1 on Agricultural Biodiversity of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biologi-cal Diversity.


The objectives of the Network are:
-  1. The identification of native and naturalized plants of the Mediterranean Region, according to use cat-egories such as food, food additives, animal food, bee plants, invertebrate foods, materials, fuels, social uses, vertebrate poisons, non-vertebrate poisons, medicines, perfumery and cosmetics, environmental uses, and gene sources (Table 1).
-  2. The creation of a Regional Information System that will include: scientific plant name and authority, vernacular names, plant description, chemical data, distribution, habitat description, uses, conservation status, present and past ways of trading, marketing and dispensing, and indigenous knowledge (ethnobiology and ethnopharmacology), including references to literature sources.
-  3. Preliminary evaluation of the conservation status and potential utilization in agriculture of these plants as alternative minor crops.

Web Team


-  Using the MEDUSA Database

Nota : The MEDUSA database contains information collected by scientists around the Mediterranean region supplemented by information from the scientific literature. The project is coordinated and the database assembled at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania, Greece with financial support from CIHEAM and the European Union AIDCO. Although considerable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of information it contains, neither the Institute nor the contributors accept any liability for the contents of the database.