Abstract. The variation in structure and floristic composition of the vegetation of Tenerife is related to different environmental factors. 200 sample plots, stratified according to altitude, exposure to wind, kind and age of parent rock, inclination and degree of disturbance were analysed throughout the island. The resulting data were analysed using univariate statistics (altitudinal distribution profiles of the more frequent species) and multivariate methods (Correspondence, Cluster and Pattern Analysis).
Altitude, exposure to wind and, to a lesser extent, disturbance were found to be the major determinants of vegetational variation, whereas parent rock and inclination were less important. Ordination results show a continuum in structural and floristic variation of the vegetation with species distributions varying continually along the altitudinal gradient. Nevertheless, altitudinally bound plant community types were recognized with Cluster Analysis. Vegetational discontinuities, which were also detected by pattern analysis, are more evident on the windward slope of the island; they have been attributed to the existence of a major underlying environmental discontinuity the ‘cloud sea’-which is associated with a climatic inversion. On the leeward slope, beyond the influence of the cloud sea, discontinuities are less evident and vegetational variation seems to be closer to a coenocline, i.e. a vegetational continuum.