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Diversity of a semi-arid, intact Mediterranean ecosystem in southwest Australia

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Author(s): S. Judd | J. E. M. Watson | A. W. T. Watson

Journal: Web Ecology
ISSN 2193-3081

Volume: 8;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 84;
Date: 2008;
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ABSTRACT
The drier parts of the Mediterranean biome of southwest Australia contain the largest remaining Mediterranean woodlands and shrublands on Earth. Despite this, there has been no formal, comprehensive assessment of their biodiversity. The region abuts the southwest Australian floristic region which has received much scientific attention. The aim of this paper is to provide the first general overview of the biodiversity of part of this intact, yet relatively unknown, Mediterranean ecosystem. We do this by synthesizing data from State Government agencies and published research. We found that, like other parts of southwest Australia, the region has globally significant levels of plant species diversity. More than 2400 plant species, including 291 species considered threatened, have been recorded, representing one-sixth of all Australia’s vascular plant species. Eleven of Australia’s 23 major vegetation groups are represented even though the region covers less than 1% of continental Australia. We documented 170 vertebrate species, including 31 threatened species, with a particularly high richness of reptile species (n = 46). We highlight how little is known about this region. For example, 116 vertebrate species not recorded in the region probably occur there based on their habitat requirements and known distributions. An examination of plant and vertebrate diversity in the region, using a half degree latitude and longitude grid cells, showed a highly heterogeneous pattern of species richness and vulnerability, with a general decline in species richness from southwest to northeast. Conservation strategies that rely on capturing the highest levels of biodiversity in a series of protected areas are unlikely to guarantee protection for all species given these high levels of heterogeneity. Instead, a region-wide conservation plan should involve targeted ecological research, consideration of ecological processes and stakeholder consultation.
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