Geography of the Mediterranean Sea

mediterranean pools

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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 path 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 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 the 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, though in other areas 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 the biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea, though. ​Invasive species are one of the most common threats as ships from other regions often bring in non-native 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.


How Stuff Works. (n.d.). How Stuff Works - "The Mediterranean Sea." Retrieved from:

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Briney, Amanda. "Geography of the Mediterranean Sea." ThoughtCo, Sep. 2, 2021, Briney, Amanda. (2021, September 2). Geography of the Mediterranean Sea. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Geography of the Mediterranean Sea." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).