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image of Israel Journal of Plant Sciences

We examined the concept of vegetation convergence—similar vegetation in similar, but disjunct, environments—using chaparral as it occurs on five continents (chaparral, fynbos, garrigue, kwongan, maquis, mattoral) as a case study. Research on chaparral in the past two decades has generated sufficient information to make a detailed comparison possible. The degree of convergence was found to be superficial; significant differences exist in physiognomy, leaf and life-form spectra, species richness, morphological adaptations to fire, phenology, biomass, and productivity. In addition, ecologically important differences in such abiotic environmental factors as intensity of summer drought, fire frequency and intensity, and soil nutrient status were apparent. Finally, the traditional linkage of chaparral vegetation with mediterranean-type climate does not consistently exist in North America; chaparral ranges beyond the limits of mediterranean climate areas. We need to reexamine not only our ideas about convergence, but also our ideas about what chaparral vegetation represents, in an ecosystem context.

Affiliations: 1: Botany Department, University of California ; 2: Earth Sciences Department, University of California


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