Aim We address the question of whether broad scale biogeographical structure of species diversity (SD) matches that of genetic diversity (GD) of vascular plants.
Location The Mediterranean basin.
Methods We normalized vascular plant species richness (SD) estimates per country using the Med-Checklist taxonomic database. We used a linear regression analysis to correlate normalized country estimates with country longitudinal position. We also compiled published and geo-referenced within-population GD data for tree species, which had populations in the Mediterranean. We normalized GD estimates for each population across species. Again, we used a linear regression analysis to correlate GD with population longitudinal position. We then compared the populations’ geographical and bioclimatic trends for GD with Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) palaeo-climate data and the species current ecological requirements.
Results The eastern Mediterranean and the coast of former Yugoslavia had higher SD than other regions. There was no overall spatial structure of SD in the Mediterranean, whereas there was an east–west trend of decreasing GD. This trend for GD tended to covary with an east–west warm/wet–cold/dry trend detected during the LGM. Low elevation xerothermic pine species displayed significantly less GD than higher elevation mesothermic or mountain pine species.
Main conclusions We suggest that LGM climate may have significantly shaped the current longitudinal and altitudinal patterns of GD we observed in woody taxa across the Mediterranean, although it did not affect comparable SD patterns. In particular, colder LGM summer temperatures in the western Mediterranean may have reduced population sizes significantly more than in the eastern Mediterranean. As plant species richness and GD did not covary, SD and GD may not be used as surrogates of one another in the Mediterranean basin. As they contain comparatively less GD, conservation priorities in the Mediterranean should focus on hot spots of endemism and Western Mediterranean populations and species.