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Deterioration and fragmentation of rivers in Malta. 1997. Freshwater Forum, 9, 55—61.


INTRODUCTION

Malta, situated in the Mediterranean Sea south of Sicily, is a small island of less than 300 square kilometres, comparable in size to the Isle of Wight. It is physically diverse, composed of Coralline limestone plateaux reaching almost 300 metres in height, blue clay slopes below the plateaux, undercliff areas where limestone meets the sea, flat basins (due to faulting, erosion and deposition), and Globigerina limestone areas of gently sloping land. Surprisingly, for such a small area, Malta has ca. 100 km of sizeable watercourses and ca. 200 km of minor ones.

Being in the Mediterranean, rain typically falls mostly between October and March, and storms may be heavy, with much runoff. The annual average rainfall is just under 500 mm, comparable to parts of eastern England. Although very variable from year to year, there has been no overall change since records began in 1841 (Bowen-Jones et al. 1961; University of East Anglia Climate Unit, private communication). Recent change in the amount of surface water on Malta cannot, therefore, be attributed to climate change.