, Volume 13, Issue 14, pp 2641-2660

Endemic flora biodiversity in the south of the Iberian Peninsula: altitudinal distribution, life forms and dispersal modes

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Abstract

The south of the Iberian Peninsula, with an altitudinal range varying from sea level to 3482 m and annual average rainfall ranging from 206 to 2223 mm, has 516 vascular endemic species or subspecies, that is, an endemicity rate of 13%. This survey deals with parameters such as species richness, originality, life forms and dispersal modes of these plants, in relation to altitudinal and rainfall gradients. Although most of the endemic plants occur between 600 and 1400 m a.s.l. and in the range of 600–1000 mm annual average rainfall, floristic originality (rate of endemic taxa per area unit) increases exponentially with altitude. The biological spectrum of this endemic flora does not follow the usual patterns observed either in local floras in the south of the Iberian Peninsula or in other regions of the Mediterranean Basin. Chamaephytes (46.08%) and hemicryptophytes (31.37%) are very abundant, whereas therophytes (11.96%) and phanerophytes (0.98%) are comparatively rare. There is a statistically significant correlation between life form and both altitudinal and rainfall gradients. Chamaephytes reach their highest density rates within 1400–2000 m a.s.l., but these records tend to decrease as rainfall rates increase. Abundance of hemicryptophytes is directly dependent on rainfall rates and inversely dependent on temperature. The altitudinal distribution pattern of therophytes is opposite to that of hemicryptophytes, but there is no clear correlation as far as rainfall gradient is concerned. Considering both the endemic plants as a whole and each of the life form groups, the relationships between the dispersal modes used and the altitudinal and rainfall gradients are analysed. Up to 44.51% of the endemic plants do not present evident adaptations to promote the dispersion of their diaspores. However, only in the group of therophytes, whose occurrence is positively related to areas of minor altitude, does this difficulty of dispersion play a significant role in the maintenance of stenochory.