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Keywords:

  • Grassland;
  • Iridaceae;
  • Israel;
  • Liliaceae;
  • Species diversity
  • Zohary & Feinbrun-Dothan (1966–1986)

Abstract. The response of geophyte species diversity and frequency of individual geophyte species to cattle grazing was measured at 68 site pairs along fences separating ungrazed from grazed grassland and woodland on different geological formations in northern Israel. Over all site pairs, geophyte species density per 4 m2 was significantly greater in grazed (2.37) than in protected (1.96) sites of the same site pair. There was considerable variation between site pairs in the magnitude and in the direction of the grazing effect. Part of this variation could be explained by differences in site altitude and in geological formation. The positive effect of grazing on geophyte diversity was lower in sites with low productivity. Of 22 geophyte taxa for which sufficient data were available, nine indicated greater frequency in grazed sites compared to only two in ungrazed sites. In 11 other taxa the response was not consistent. A positive response to grazing was most common in geophytes with narrow leaves of the Iridaceae, Liliaceae and allied families. Conservation of the entire geophyte flora in Mediterranean vegetation requires livestock grazing at moderate to high intensities in parts of the area of each community, and light or no grazing in other parts.