ranean-climate regions is also quite rich. In Mediterranean-climate regions the basis for the localized diversity can differ with the pattern of disturbance. In some systems with a long history of association with human activities, diversity has actually increased (Naveh and Whittaker, 1979).

Data on diversity at a given site indicate its structural dynamics as related to both evolutionary history and pattern of disturbance. We are just now beginning to appreciate the role of both natural disturbances and the impacts of humans in controlling community structure, including its diversity (Bazzaz, 1983). Such knowledge is essential for understanding and hence managing a given level of diversity.


Data on local diversity are an indication of disturbance pattern and evolutionary history leading to niche diversification. Another view of the biotic richness of an area is the degree of endemism of the biota. Data on species numbers and degree of endemism for Mediterranean-climate regions form the basis for identifying them as critical sites for conservation. An indication of the diversity and uniqueness of Mediterranean-climate plant life is given below for South Africa, California, and the Mediterranean basin—areas that share unusually high biotic diversities but have dissimilar histories of human impact. For example, South Africa has large tracts of land dominated by the original species-rich shrubland, and the Mediterranean basin contains predominantly herb or shrub degradation forms of the original vegetation. The diversity of South Africa is threatened by development and the invasion of alien species; the Mediterranean basin diversity, by changes in land-use patterns.

South Africa

The Mediterranean-climate region (fynbos biome) of South Africa covers 75,000 square kilometers. This area includes 8,550 vascular plants (Macdonald and Jarman, 1984), three-quarters of which are endemic (Jarman, 1986). According to estimates by Hall (1978), the flora indigenous to the South African Cape, which is found in an area of 46,000 square kilometers, contains at least 6,000 higher plant species—a species richness three times that found in tropical regions of similar areas. This subregion has been considered one of the world’s six distinctive floristic regions.

In the fynbos biome, 1,585 plant species are considered rare and threatened (Macdonald and Jarman, 1984), and 39 have recently become extinct (Jarman, 1986). Although the fynbos region occupies less than 1% of southern Africa, it contains 65% of the threatened plant species (Hall, 1979).

Much of the vegetation in this region has been destroyed by human activities, but not to the extent it has occurred in other Mediterranean-climate areas. In the lowland regions, only about 30% of the original vegetation remains, whereas in the mountains, approximately 80% of the vegetation remains intact. Overall, about 67% of the natural fynbos vegetation remains (Jarman, 1986). One threat to the native flora is the presence of alien, generally woody species, which have invaded

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