The Botanical Review

, Volume 65, Issue 2, pp 93–170 | Cite as

Desert rocks as plant refugia in the Near East

  • Avinoam Danin

Abstract

The outcrops of smooth-faced rocks in Near Eastern deserts function as refugia for plants that do not fit the present local climate. They have survived in the area from periods when the continuous extensions of the moister climate enabled their penetration from the Mediterranean zone. The largest Mediterranean enclave in Near Eastern deserts and steppes is the sandstone and limestone outcrops at the upper escarpments of the southwestern Jordanian plateau, between At Tafila and Ras en Naqb, including the famous Petra and Wadi Dana. Hundreds of Mediterranean relict species and dozens of endemic species coexist with steppe and desert species in the crevices of these rocks. In this article I discuss the ecology, phytogeography, and distribution of this special habitat in Jordan, the Sinai, and Israel; and I compare the influence on past and present floras of climatic oscillations during the Pleistocene and Holocene in the Near East and Africa.

Résumé

L’affleurement des roches á surface lisse fonctionne dans les déserts du Proche-Orient comme refuge pour les plantes nonadaptées au climat local actuel. Elles ont survécu dans ces régions depuis des périodes quand les extensions contigües de climat humide ont rendu possible leur pénétration á partir de la zone méditerranéenne. La plus vaste enclave méditerranéenne dans les déserts et steppes du Proche-Orient est l’affleurement de grès et calcaires dans les talus supérieurs du plateau jordanien sudoccidental, entre At Tafila et Ras en Naqb, y compris les célèbres Petra et Wadi Dana. Des centaines d’espèces relictes et des douzaines endémiques coexistent dans les fentes de ces rochers avec les espèces de la steppe et du désert. Dans cet article je discute l’écologie, la phytogéographie, et la distribution de cet habitat spécial en Jordanie, dans le Sinaï, et en Israël; et je compare l’influence sur les flores passées et actuelles des oscillations du climat pendant le Pléistocène et le Holocène au Proche-Orient et en Afrique.

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Avinoam Danin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Evolution, Systematics, and Ecology The Alexander Silberman Institute of Life SciencesThe Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

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