, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 493-521
Date: 15 Sep 2007

Biodiversity and phytogeography of the alpine flora of Iran

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Abstract

Iran is a mountainous country. Zagros and Alborz mountains reach altitudes of more than 4,000 m. Alpine regions are above timber-line, which is not easy to recognize, since aridity is prominent in most regions. The alpine zone in Alborz lies between 3,000 and 4,000 m, the nival zone is above 4,000 m, locally varying by some hundred meters. A first evaluation of vascular flora shows that 682 species belonging to 193 genera and 39 families are known from the alpine zone of Iran. The alpine zone is commonly characterized by many species of hemicryptophytes and thorny cushions. Species numbers decline very strongly with increasing altitude. In this paper biogeographical patterns of the alpine flora of Iran have been discussed and distribution maps of 44 species are illustrated. New data indicate a transitional situation of the Iranian mountains between Anatolia/Caucasus and the Hindu Kush, but with a strong own element with high endemism and remarkable relict species. Ca. 58% of the alpine flora of Iran are endemic and subendemic. The Zagros Mountains harbor high endemism which justify considering this area as a separate floristic province. Based on the evaluation of published data from 682 known alpine species ca. 160 species have been known only by one record, 110 species by 2–3 records and 87 endemic species have been known only based on the type location. These plants need a strong conservation and protection management since the fragile ecosystems are often very restricted, small and very isolated, nonetheless grazing and overgrazing are still common threats.