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The bases for the high diversities among the different Mediterranean-type vegetations differ. In Israel, the diversity is accounted for mostly by herbaceous species, principally annuals, and is the result of human-driven “relatively rapid evolution under stress by drought, fire, grazing and cutting” (Naveh and Whittaker, 1979). In contrast, the high diversity of the South African fynbos (Mediterranean-climate scrubland) vegetation consists of woody species, of which there are few annuals. This type of vegetation has not been subject to a long history of human disturbance.
The data thus indicate that tropical systems are probably among the world’s richest in terms of local, or alpha, diversity, but that the vegetation of Mediter-
TABLE 17–1 Mean Numbers of Species per 0.1-Hectare Sample Area (Non-Mediterranean Sites Include Only Data for Woody Plants over 1 Inch in Diameter at Breast Height)