about one-fourth of the native vegetation (Jarman, 1986). Of 70 critically threatened or recently extinct taxa, 23% are threatened by invading acacias, 8% by pines, and 2% by hakeas (Hall, 1979).

In summary, the South African Mediterranean-climate vegetation is as rich as any found on Earth. This richness is being threatened by human development, as everywhere, but also by a rather remarkable invasion of woody plants that are altering the basic functioning of these systems (Macdonald and Jarman, 1984).


There is rather complete information describing the biotic richness of the State of California, most of which falls within a Mediterranean-type climate. Although not as rich as South Africa in plant species, it certainly is one of the world’s most biotically diverse areas. In an area of 411,000 square kilometers, there are more than 5,046 native vascular plant species, 30% of which are endemic. (In comparison, there are about 20,000 vascular plant species in the continental United States.) About one-tenth of the flora in these regions of California has recently become extinct or endangered. This represents 25% of all the extinct and endangered species of the United States as a whole (Raven and Axelrod, 1978).

California has suffered great losses of natural communities through human development of agriculture, industry, and housing, especially in coastal and valley regions. Entire ecosystems have evidently been irrevocably lost. One of the most spectacular examples of this is the native perennial grassland of the Central Valley and north coastal regions, which has been replaced by an annual grassland dominated by species mostly inadvertently introduced from the Mediterranean basin (Burcham, 1957). Raven and Axelrod (1978) estimate that more than 10% of the flora in these regions is now composed of naturalized aliens. Thus California, like other Mediterranean-climate regions, has an unusually diverse biota that is being threatened by human activities. But to a greater extent than in other regions, substantial areas of the state have been set aside as parks and preserves.

The Mediterranean Basin

The entire Mediterranean basin encompasses more than 2 million square kilometers and may include as many as 25,000 higher plant species, about half of which are endemic (Quezel, 1985). Of 2,879 species endemic to individual Mediterranean countries (excluding Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and the Atlantic islands), 1,529 are rare (1,262) or threatened, and 300 are not categorized. If the Atlantic islands (Azores, Madeira, and the Canaries) are included, these figures increase to 3,583 endemics and 1,968 rare or threatened plant species (Leon et al., 1985)

In contrast to California and South Africa, where large areas of climax vegetation remain, much of the Mediterranean basin has been completely transformed from its native state. Naveh and Dan (1973, p. 387) reported that the region as a whole “is composed of innumerable variants of different degradation and regeneration stages.” Since the impact of humans in this region has been so extensive for a long time, it is believed that the Mediterranean endemic has evolved under conditions of frequent disturbance or in depauperate microsites, such as rock outcrops (Gomez-Campo, 1985). Greuter (1979, p. 90) observed that “the rare threatened taxa are

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