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A habitat is the area where groups of species live. The Maltese Islands have a range of habitats that are typical of the Mediterranean. Dingli Cliffs and the surrounding areas have various different habitats, including:
Woodlands are characterised by evergreen trees, with shrubs. Such habitats, characterised by the Holm Oak (Quercus ilex) and Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis), became extinct when the first inhabitants came to the Islands. Buskett is the main woodland found in the Islands and is just 1.5 miles away from THE CLIFFS Interpretation Centre.
This habitat is characterised by shrubs and tree communities. Typical trees include the Olive (Olea europaea), Carob (Ceratonia siliqua), Wild Almond (Amygdalus communis) and the Lentisk (Pistacia lentiscus). The Cliffs below the Interpretation Centre offer a good refuge for such Maquis and various assemblages can be seen from the cliff’s edge.
Together with the Steppe (Steppa), this habitat forms the most characteristic natural vegetation type present in the area. It is characterised by low-lying shrubs that are resistant to drought and can survive harsh temperature extremes and lack of water. Many endemic and rare species are found living in scattered pockets surrounding the centre, such as the Mediterranean Heath (Erica multiflora), Mediterranean Thyme (Thymbra capitata), endemic Maltese Fleabane (Chiliadenus bocconei) and the Maltese Spurge (Euphorbia melitensis).
Degradation of maquis and garrigue result in Steppes. Steppes also develop in abandoned agricultural land. Amongst the wild plants that dominate such habitats is the Giant Fennel (Ferula communis). Clay slopes down the cliffs can also be considered as steppes and Esparto grass (Lygeum spartum) is usually present on such slopes.
Rainwater Rockpools (Għadajjar ta’ l-Ilma Ħelu)
Natural hollows on the Upper Coralline Limestone stratum act as small temporary reservoirs of rainwater. Rock pools offer a suitable habitat for a number of plant and animal species and certain species are adapted to Aestivation during the dry summer season.
The cliffs are the main characteristic of the area. The general habitat of the cliffs is made up from agricultural land, and a mixture of the above mentioned habitats. The cliffs offer a vital habitat to a wide variety of fauna and flora, with a number of coastal birds breeding in the lower part of the cliffs and various endemic species and communities. It shall be noted that the Malta Fungus (Cynomorium coccineum) is found just below the clay slopes at Dingli Cliffs.
The Cliffs have a number of caves which house a variety of organisms specially adapted to live in such habitats. Such caves are important for certain invertebrates and bats.
Valley Watercourses (Widien)
Due to the topographic nature of Dingli, it is surrounded by numerous valleys or by areas from where such valleys start. Such valleys provide an important habitat for various fauna and flora including the Painted Frog (Discoglossus pictus pictus, Żrinġ), and the Maltese Freshwater Crab (Potamon fluviatile lanfrancoi, Qabru). The valleys that surround Dingli are:
- Wied Ħażrun (Hażrun Valley)
- Wied il-Bużbież (Buzbiez Valley)
- Wied il-Baħrija (Baħrija Valley)
- Wied il-Fiddien (Fiddien Valley)
- Wied il-Qliegħa (Chadwick Lakes)
- Wied iż-Żebbuġ (Olives Valley)
- Wied tal-Isqof (Bishop Valley)
- Wied Liemu (Liemu Valley)
- Wied Rini (Rini Valley)
- Wied Santi (Santi Valley)
- Wied il-Girgenti (Girgenti Valley)