Ecology and Evolution of Plants in the Mediterranean Basin: From Knowledge to Conservation

A special issue of Plants (ISSN 2223-7747). This special issue belongs to the section "Plant Ecology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2022) | Viewed by 21164

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Chemical, Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences, School of Natural Sciences and Environmental Management, University of Sassari, 07100 Sassari, Italy
Interests: population and community ecology of vascular plants; biodiversity conservation; Mediterranean biogeography
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Guest Editor
Unitat de Botànica, Departament de Biologia Animal, Biologia Vegetal i Ecologia, Facultat de Biociències, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain
Interests: systematics; taxonomy; botany

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The Mediterranean region, extending on ca. 2.3 million km2, is one of the most important biodiversity hotspots at the global scale, hosting ca. 25,000 vascular plants of which ca. 1/3 are narrow endemics. Despite the considerable number of studies pertaining to the ecology and evolution of Mediterranean vascular plants published in recent decades, there are still many gaps of knowledge in several key arguments: from the genetic dynamics of populations, linked to the reproductive ecology, to adaptive strategies in harsh environments as revealed by traits analyses; or from the evolutionary role of peripheral and disjunct populations, to the unexplored relationships between vascular plants and neglected taxa such as fungi, bacteria and viruses. Improving our knowledge of these and other topics is also crucial to support the management and conservation of the Mediterranean flora, increasingly under threat because of human pressure on coastal environments, abandonment and land use change in mountains and inland areas, as well as general climate change effects already impacting the basin.

If you are carrying out research on novel topics for the comprehension of the ecology and evolution of Mediterranean vascular plants, please join our efforts and publish with us in this Special Issue.

Summary

1) General overviews (flora-vegetation synthesis, geological and paleoclimate analyses, biogeography and phylogeography);

2) Case studies (site- and/or species-specific studies on genetics and/or ecology);

3) The neglected worlds (fungal, lichen, bacteria and virus diversity and their interaction to plant ecology and evolution in the Mediterranean);

4) Conservation (theoretical approach, syntheses and concrete cases of conservation actions of Mediterranean plants);

Prof. Emmanuele Farris
Dr. Javier López-Alvarado
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • adaptation
  • biodiversity
  • conservation
  • ecology
  • evolution
  • genetics
  • interactions
  • Mediterranean basin
  • population
  • traits
  • vascular plants

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Editorial

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3 pages, 204 KiB  
Editorial
Ecology and Evolution of Plants in the Mediterranean Basin: Perspectives and Challenges
by Javier Lopez-Alvarado and Emmanuele Farris
Plants 2022, 11(12), 1584; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11121584 - 15 Jun 2022
Cited by 19 | Viewed by 1464
Abstract
Preserving biodiversity at the global and local scales is a challenge for the future decades, both for protecting species and habitats and to enhance the ecosystem services they provide to the human population [...] Full article

Research

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15 pages, 308 KiB  
Article
Legumes of the Sardinia Island: Knowledge on Symbiotic and Endophytic Bacteria and Interactive Software Tool for Plant Species Determination
by Rosella Muresu, Andrea Porceddu, Giuseppe Concheri, Piergiorgio Stevanato and Andrea Squartini
Plants 2022, 11(11), 1521; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11111521 - 6 Jun 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1846
Abstract
A meta-analysis was carried out on published literature covering the topic of interactive plant microbiology for botanical species of legumes occurring within the boundary of the Italian island Sardinia, lying between the Tyrrhenian and the western Mediterranean seas. Reports were screened for the [...] Read more.
A meta-analysis was carried out on published literature covering the topic of interactive plant microbiology for botanical species of legumes occurring within the boundary of the Italian island Sardinia, lying between the Tyrrhenian and the western Mediterranean seas. Reports were screened for the description of three types of bacterial occurrences; namely, (a) the nitrogen-fixing symbionts dwelling in root nodules; (b) other bacteria co-hosted in nodules but having the ancillary nature of endophytes; (c) other endophytes isolated from different non-nodular portions of the legume plants. For 105 plant species or subspecies, over a total of 290 valid taxonomical descriptions of bacteria belonging to either one or more of these three categories were found, yielding 85 taxa of symbionts, 142 taxa of endophytes in nodules, and 33 in other plant parts. The most frequent cases were within the Medicago, Trifolium, Lotus, Phaseolus, and Vicia genera, the majority of symbionts belonged to the Rhizobium, Mesorhizobium, Bradyrhizobium, and Sinorhizobium taxa. Both nodular and extra-nodular endophytes were highly represented by Gammaproteobacteria (Pseudomonas, Enterobacter, Pantoea) and Firmicutes (Bacillus, Paenibacillus), along with a surprisingly high diversity of the Actinobacteria genus Micromonospora. The most plant-promiscuous bacteria were Sinorhizobium meliloti as symbiont and Bacillus megaterium as endophyte. In addition to the microbial analyses we introduce a practical user-friendly software tool for plant taxonomy determination working in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that we have purposely elaborated for the classification of legume species of Sardinia. Its principle is based on subtractive keys that progressively filter off the plants that do not comply with the observed features, eventually leaving only the name of the specimen under examination. Full article
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16 pages, 2735 KiB  
Article
Niche Variation in Endemic Lilium pomponium on a Wide Altitudinal Gradient in the Maritime Alps
by Ninon Fontaine, Perrine Gauthier, Gabriele Casazza and John D. Thompson
Plants 2022, 11(6), 833; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11060833 - 21 Mar 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2007
Abstract
The relationship between altitudinal and ecological gradients has long been a dominant theme in plant ecology; moreover, how species respond to climate change has renewed this interest. Mediterranean mountains are often hotspots of endemism, and some endemic species have local distributions that span [...] Read more.
The relationship between altitudinal and ecological gradients has long been a dominant theme in plant ecology; moreover, how species respond to climate change has renewed this interest. Mediterranean mountains are often hotspots of endemism, and some endemic species have local distributions that span different climatic belts; hence, local variations in topography and fine-scaled niche conditions may play crucial roles in their persistence along such gradients. Studies of the fine-scaled niche are, however, very rare; most studies involve broad-scale variations in climatic parameters. The Turban lily, Lilium pomponium L. is endemic to the Maritime and Ligurian Alps, where it occurs across a wide altitudinal gradient. Previous work has shown no link between climatic marginality and geographic range limits on morphological traits and genetic variability; however, possible variations of local topographic and ecological parameters have not yet been examined. The objective of this paper is to characterise local ecological niche conditions of L. pomponium populations in the different bioclimatic zones it occupies along the altitudinal gradient. The species occurs in four main types of microecological niches. One of these niche types, with a high mineral cover, is the most abundant—type 2: it was detected in 39% of sampled quadrats and occurs across the whole bioclimatic gradient. Other niche types are more limited to subsections of the gradient: type 3 (in 19% of sampled quadrats) is restricted to high-altitude sites (>1070 m.a.s.l.) and is characterised by high vegetation and litter cover; type 4 (26%) corresponds to more forested habitats on substrates with low water retention capacities, in more inland zones close to the centre of L. pomponium distribution and across a range of altitudes; and type 1 (16% of quadrat) only occurs in the Mediterranean part of the gradient, close to distribution limits in pockets of soil among large blocks of rocks, mainly found at mid-altitudes. Despite heterogeneity in the spatial locations of niche types, there is no correspondence between ecological gradients and the distribution limits of this species. Knowledge of the fine-scaled ecological conditions that determine niche types is thus essential for conservation management of the habitats of this species and for the exploration of its possible response to ongoing climate change. Full article
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18 pages, 2213 KiB  
Article
The Endemic Vascular Flora of Sardinia: A Dynamic Checklist with an Overview of Biogeography and Conservation Status
by Mauro Fois, Emmanuele Farris, Giacomo Calvia, Giuliano Campus, Giuseppe Fenu, Marco Porceddu and Gianluigi Bacchetta
Plants 2022, 11(5), 601; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11050601 - 23 Feb 2022
Cited by 35 | Viewed by 4481
Abstract
The vascular flora of Sardinia has been investigated for more than 250 years, with particular attention to the endemic component due to their phylogeographic and conservation interest. However, continuous changes in the floristic composition through natural processes, anthropogenic drivers or modified taxonomical attributions [...] Read more.
The vascular flora of Sardinia has been investigated for more than 250 years, with particular attention to the endemic component due to their phylogeographic and conservation interest. However, continuous changes in the floristic composition through natural processes, anthropogenic drivers or modified taxonomical attributions require constant updating. We checked all available literature, web sources, field, and unpublished data from the authors and acknowledged external experts to compile an updated checklist of vascular plants endemic to Sardinia. Life and chorological forms as well as the conservation status of the updated taxa list were reported. Sardinia hosts 341 taxa (15% of the total native flora) endemic to the Tyrrhenian Islands and other limited continental territories; 195 of these (8% of the total native flora) are exclusive to Sardinia. Asteraceae (50 taxa) and Plumbaginaceae (42 taxa) are the most representative families, while the most frequent life forms are hemicryptophytes (118 taxa) and chamaephytes (106 taxa). The global conservation status, available for 201 taxa, indicates that most endemics are under the ‘Critically Endangered’ (25 taxa), ‘Endangered’ (31 taxa), or ‘Least Concern’ (90 taxa) IUCN categories. This research provides an updated basis for future biosystematics, taxonomic, biogeographical, and ecological studies and in supporting more integrated and efficient policy tools. Full article
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15 pages, 4719 KiB  
Article
Niche Differentiation at Multiple Spatial Scales on Large and Small Mediterranean Islands for the Endemic Silene velutina Pourr. ex Loisel. (Caryophyllaceae)
by Valentina Murru, Emmanuele Farris, Andrea Santo, Oscar Grillo, Carole Piazza, Antonella Gaio, Gianluigi Bacchetta and John D. Thompson
Plants 2021, 10(11), 2298; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants10112298 - 26 Oct 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1612
Abstract
The aim of this work is to investigate niche variations in endemic Silene velutina (Caryophyllaceae, Angiosperms) on Mediterranean islands that differ in size. Six populations on both large and small islands were sampled across the geographic range of the species. For each population, [...] Read more.
The aim of this work is to investigate niche variations in endemic Silene velutina (Caryophyllaceae, Angiosperms) on Mediterranean islands that differ in size. Six populations on both large and small islands were sampled across the geographic range of the species. For each population, 10 plots (1 × 2 m, with a 25 cm grill) were randomly placed to quantify environmental (abiotic and biotic factors and disturbance) and population (demographic structure and reproductive success) parameters. Niche parameters related to substrate, plant cover, community diversity and composition and disturbance showed significant variation in relation to island size. At the regional scale, we detected a broader niche on large islands associated with spatial heterogeneity and island size. In contrast, at the local scale, populations on small islands showed a broader niche, potentially due to a release from competition (low diversity and plant cover and absence of phanerophytes). Populations on large islands had a demographic structure biased towards vegetative individuals (seedlings and juveniles) with few reproductive individuals, while those on small islands had a majority of adults. Together, the results on niche breadth and demographic structure concord with the idea of a strategy based on adult persistence on small islands. Full article
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20 pages, 2784 KiB  
Article
Variations in Plant Richness, Biogeographical Composition, and Life Forms along an Elevational Gradient in a Mediterranean Mountain
by Letizia Di Biase, Loretta Pace, Cristina Mantoni and Simone Fattorini
Plants 2021, 10(10), 2090; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants10102090 - 1 Oct 2021
Cited by 19 | Viewed by 2763
Abstract
Despite the increasing interest in elevational patterns in biodiversity, few studies have investigated variations in life forms and biogeographical composition, especially in the Mediterranean biome. We investigated elevational patterns in species richness, biogeographical composition (chorotypes) and life forms (Raunkiaer classification) along an elevational [...] Read more.
Despite the increasing interest in elevational patterns in biodiversity, few studies have investigated variations in life forms and biogeographical composition, especially in the Mediterranean biome. We investigated elevational patterns in species richness, biogeographical composition (chorotypes) and life forms (Raunkiaer classification) along an elevational gradient in a Mediterranean mountain (Central Italy). We found a general hump-shaped pattern of species richness, which can be explained by harsher conditions at the lowest and highest elevations. This pattern is distinctly related to prevalence at mid elevations of species with European and Euro-Asiatic distribution, which are favored by a temperate climate. Phanerophytes and geophytes (which are mainly associated with woods) were concentrated at mid elevations where woodlands prevail. Hemicryptophytes increased with elevation, consistently with their ability to cope with high altitude climatic conditions. Mediterranean species declined with elevation because they are negatively affected by decreasing temperatures. Chamaephytes showed a U-shaped pattern, suggesting they are able to cope with arid and cold conditions at the extremes of the gradient. Endemics increased with elevation because of their association with mountainous areas as key places for endemism evolution. These results illustrate how elevational patterns in species richness, biogeographical composition and life forms are interrelated and demonstrate reciprocal insights for understanding current vegetation settings. Full article
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11 pages, 902 KiB  
Article
Eco-Geographical, Morphological and Molecular Characterization of a Collection of the Perennial Endemic Species Medicago tunetana (Murb.) A.W. Hill (Fabaceae) from Tunisia
by Yosr Ferchichi, Anis Sakhraoui, Hela Belhaj Ltaeif, Yosr Ben Mhara, Mohamed Elimem, M’barek Ben Naceur, Zeineb Ghrabi-Gammar and Slim Rouz
Plants 2021, 10(9), 1923; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants10091923 - 15 Sep 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2447
Abstract
In order to characterize and conserve the endemic pastoral species Medicago tunetana, many prospecting missions were carried out in mountainous regions of the Tunisian ridge. Twenty-seven eco-geographical and morphological traits were studied for six M. tunetana accessions and followed by molecular analysis [...] Read more.
In order to characterize and conserve the endemic pastoral species Medicago tunetana, many prospecting missions were carried out in mountainous regions of the Tunisian ridge. Twenty-seven eco-geographical and morphological traits were studied for six M. tunetana accessions and followed by molecular analysis using seven Simple Sequence Repeat (SSR). Only five markers were polymorphic and reproductible in the six M. tunetana populations. A total of 54 alleles were observed with an average of 10.8 bands/primer/genotype. Mean Polymorphism Information Content (PIC), Nei gene diversity (h) Shannon’s information index (I) indicated the high level of polymorphism. The generated dendrogram with hierarchical UPGMA cluster analysis grouped accessions into two main groups with various degree of subclustring. All the studied accessions shared 57% of genetic similarity. Analysis of variance showed high significant difference between morphological traits among M. tunetana populations where MT3 from Kesra showed different morphological patterns regarding leaf, pod and seeds traits. Canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) showed two principal groups of M. tunetana populations based on potassium, total and active lime contents in soil. Our results suggest that SSR markers developed in M. truncatula could be a valuable tool to detect polymorphism in M. tunetana. Furthermore, the studied morphological markers showed a large genetic diversity among M. tunetana populations. This approach may be applicable for the analysis of intra specific variability in M. tunetana accessions. Our study could help in the implementation of an effective and integrated conservation programs of perennial endemic Medicago. Full article
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12 pages, 2788 KiB  
Article
Importance of Plants with Extremely Small Populations (PSESPs) in Endemic-Rich Areas, Elements Often Forgotten in Conservation Strategies
by Donatella Cogoni, Giuseppe Fenu, Carlo Dessì, Angela Deidda, Cesario Giotta, Marcello Piccitto and Gianluigi Bacchetta
Plants 2021, 10(8), 1504; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants10081504 - 22 Jul 2021
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 3051
Abstract
The distribution of the threatened fern Ophioglossum vulgatum L., a plant with extremely small populations (PSESPs) in Sardinia, is characterized by small disjunct populations with only a few individuals, and little is known about its status in the wild. To provide information for [...] Read more.
The distribution of the threatened fern Ophioglossum vulgatum L., a plant with extremely small populations (PSESPs) in Sardinia, is characterized by small disjunct populations with only a few individuals, and little is known about its status in the wild. To provide information for the conservation of O. vulgatum and with the aim to develop an in situ conservation strategy, we investigated its distribution, population size, and habitat. Field surveys confirmed that the species grows in only five localities. Two representative populations were selected for this study (Funtanamela and Gedili), and in each population, all plants were mapped and monitored monthly from April to August over an 8-year period. During the study, the populations had a very low number of reproductive plants and the populations appeared to be in decline, with the total number of plants per population slightly decreased in Gedili while a sharp reduction was recorded in Funtanamela due to wild boar threat. A fence was built in order to protect the site from further damage, but no noticeable signals of recovery were observed. The most urgent conservation requirement for this species is to preserve the threatened habitat of the remnant populations. Further field surveys and research are also required for an improved understanding of the species’ status. Full article
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