Variation in species composition and vegetation structure of succulent scrub on Tenerife in relation to environmental variation



Abstract. On Tenerife, the occurrence of environmental gradients over short distances provides a unique opportunity to investigate the relationship between vegetation and environmental factors. In the semi-arid coastal region of Tenerife, floristic composition, species richness and vegetation structure of perennial plants have been studied in 67 locations covering the existing precipitation gradient.

On the island as a whole, variation in species composition could be best explained by mean annual precipitation; at coastal sites, substrate age and soil characteristics also played a significant role. On the other hand, substrate chemistry and the type of eruptive material explained little of the floristic variation. Stand biomass was strongly correlated with mean annual precipitation and was, on the youngest lava flows studied, also affected by substrate age. The native stem succulent species made up the bulk of total biomass along the whole precipitation gradient. Disturbed and undisturbed sites differed significantly in stand biomass and cover. Species richness was correlated with precipitation and substrate age. Distribution of plant functional types was also related to the precipitation gradient. The relative abundance of hemicryptophytes and shrubs with non-hairy leaves increased with increasing precipitation whereas the ratio of shrubs with hairy/non-hairy leaves and succulent plants decreased. Some alien plants were quite frequent at disturbed sites but, on the whole, they contributed little to the species spectrum and to the stand biomass. Undisturbed sites remained almost free of introduced species not considering annuals.