, Volume 9, Issue 9, pp 1323-1343

Plant diversity patterns in the Aljibe Mountains (S. Spain): a comprehensive account

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Abstract

The Aljibe Mountains are located in the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula and have a remarkable biogeographical interest. The complete plant species list (trees, climbers, shrubs, perennial and annual herbs, ferns, lichens, bryophytes and macroscopic algae) was recorded in four 0.1 ha plots from each of the most representative community types (Quercus suber woodland, Q. canariensis forest, open heathland and Q. coccifera shrubland). Up to 119 plant species were found in total in the Q. suber woodland plot. The diversity of woody plants was analysed from 44 samples of cover (100 m line), and the herbaceous layer was explored in 200 quadrats (of 0.5 × 0.5 m). Three biodiversity components (species richness, endemism, and taxonomic singularity) were evaluated in both shrub and herbaceous layers. Open heathlands showed the highest richness of endemic species, both woody and herbaceous. The highest number of woody species was found in the evergreen Q. suber woodland, and of herbaceous species in the semi-deciduous Q. canariensis woodland. Taxonomic singularity was higher in Q. canariensis woodlands and Q. coccifera shrublands for woody species, but there were no significant differences in the herbaceous layer. Local species diversity of heathlands in this region resembles that of South African heathlands (fynbos), despite the obvious geographic and floristic distance, and contrasts with the low diversity of biogeographically closer, European temperate heathlands. The Aljibe Mountains show high diversity values for different life forms (from trees to mosses) and spatial scales (from community to region), and are rich in endemic species. Thus, this area should be recognised as a relevant unit within the Mediterranean plant diversity hot spots.