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Keywords:

  • Acid soil;
  • Aljibe;
  • Convergence;
  • Diversity;
  • Edaphic endemism;
  • Mountain;
  • Strait of Gibraltar;
  • Cape floristic region

Abstract. The theory of convergence predicts that, given similar selective regimes, both present and past, unrelated ecological communities will show similar attributes. Mild Pleistocene climate, highly infertile soils, and similar fire regimes explain the remarkable convergence between mediterranean-type vegetation from South Africa (fynbos) and Australia (kwongan). Heathlands in the Aljibe Mountains, at the western end of the Mediterranean basin, constitute a single vegetation type within the Mediterranean region.

We studied the association between endemism and plant life form in a flora from environmentally similar areas of the South African Cape region (fynbos) and the Aljibe Mountains by contingency table analysis. We included two non-acid, neighbouring areas to the latter region in the analysis as contrasts. We also compared the patterns of variation in three components of biodiversity (species richness, endemism level and taxonomic singularity) of fynbos and Aljibe heathland woody plant communities along similar soil fertility gradients by means of two-way ANOVAs.

At the regional (flora) level, our results show two common features in the biological aspects of endemism between the two regions: (1) edaphic endemism and (2) association of endemism with the shrub growth form. At the community level, we detected strong similarities in the patterns of variation of endemism and taxonomic singularity of woody communities from both regions along an ecological gradient related to soil fertility. We interpret these similarities, both at the regional and community levels, as suggestive of convergence between fynbos and Aljibe heathland.