On a regional scale, we compared the local adaptive patterns of soil mycobiota revealed in four ‘Evolution Canyons’ located in the northern and southern parts of Israel. These microsites were chosen according to the framework of the Institute of Evolution, University of Haifa programme, focusing on the effect of interslope environmental divergence on biodiversity patterns. The comparative analysis demonstrated remarkable differences in spatiotemporal structure of the microfungal communities and their biodiversity level (species richness, heterogeneity and equitability). In the desert ‘Evolution Canyon’, stress-selected, slow-reproducing, dark-coloured species with large, multicelled conidia were dominant. At the same time, in the forest localities of the northern canyons, as well as in the agriculturally disturbed locality with soil degradation, ruderal-selected, fast-reproducing Penicillium species predominated. Environmental natural selection appeared to be the major factor affecting adaptive diversity patterns of soil microfungi in the studied area. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 93, 157–163.