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Keywords:

  • Altitude;
  • Ecological pattern;
  • Ecological persistence;
  • Evolution;
  • Environmental gradient;
  • Life form;
  • Mediterranean grassland;
  • Plant form;
  • Regional-scale variation

Abstract. The species composition and morphological and functional traits of ecological systems are compared. The significance of the resulting relationship is interpreted considering the underlying spatial environmental variation. Using 60 morphological and functional traits, a gradient of ecological persistence was detected in Mediterranean grasslands along an altitudinal range of ca. 1200 m. This pattern coincides with the one expressed by its taxonomic composition and thus permits ‘styles of adaptation’ of ecological systems to be recognized. Species composition may represent one of the possible combinations which optimises its environmental fit.

The relevance to ecological theory of this pattern of grassland organization is discussed in the context of a hypothetical model of evolution.