Cenozoic assembly of the Greater Cape flora

G. Anthony Verboom, H. Peter Linder, Félix Forest, Vera Hoffmann, Nicola G. Bergh and Richard M. Cowling

in Fynbos

Published in print September 2014 | ISBN: 9780199679584
Published online October 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780191791949 | DOI:
Cenozoic assembly of the Greater Cape flora

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Molecular phylogenetics has greatly enhanced understanding of the assembly of the Greater Cape flora. Besides facilitating the identification of major lineages of Cape plants, phylogenetic data reveal when these lineages first arrived in the Greater Cape Floristic Region (GCFR) and whence they were sourced. Together with fossil evidence, they also provide insights into floristic diversification and its consequences for contemporary diversity. This chapter considers the possibility that the major vegetation types of the GCFR have contrasting histories of assembly. It shows that most of the endemic diversity of the GCFR is contained in the autochthonous fynbos, renosterveld, and succulent karoo floras but that these elements have rather different assembly histories. Whereas lineages typical of fynbos, a vegetation type associated principally with the moist, climatically stable but nutrient-deficient environments of the Cape mountains, reveal a long-standing presence in the GCFR, those typical of succulent karoo and renosterveld, both vegetation types associated with seasonally arid, often low-lying environments, are young, their origin and diversification probably being linked to the onset of climatic seasonality and landscape change in the Late Miocene/Pliocene. Also, whereas the renosterveld and succulent karoo floras are fundamentally African, the fynbos flora has as strong austral flavour. The two allochthonous vegetation formations of the GCFR, forest and thicket, appear to have been much more extensive historically, having contracted as a consequence of Miocene – Pliocene and Pleistocene climate dynamics. Differences in vegetation history are also recorded in patterns of contemporary diversity.

Keywords: molecular phylogenetics; vegetation history; fossil evidence; floristic diversification; diversity; fynbos; succulent karoo; renosterveld

Chapter.  18684 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Animal Pathology and Diseases

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