Abstract

Lumbreras, A.; Tahiri, H.; Pinto-Cruz, C.; Pardo, C., and Molina, J.A., 2012. Habitat variation in vernal pool ecosystems on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar.

We studied vernal pool (VP) ecosystems along a latitudinal gradient crossing the Strait of Gibraltar in order to determine its role in the distribution of VP plant communities. We analyzed flora, vegetation, physical–chemical water parameters, and climatic data from two vernal pool areas on both the European (Iberian) and African (Moroccan) sides of the Strait. Despite the minor distance between both territories, the pools clearly differed in species composition and ecology. However, they showed a similar vegetation zonation in growth forms, including isoetid, batrachiid, and helophytic vegetation. The distribution of the plant communities was related to nutrient load, temperature, and precipitation. Water nitrate concentration was higher in Morocco, where VPs are characterized by Isoetes velata subsp. adspersa and Ranunculus saniculifolius communities. Iberian VPs had lower water nitrate content, and were characterized by Isoetes velata subsp. velata and Ranunculus peltatus communities. We think this nutrient difference is likely to be caused by the different land management regime on each side of the Strait, with more intensive agriculture in Morocco. Long-term (historical) and present-day (ecological) processes have been proposed to account for the habitat variation in vernal pool ecosystems on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar.

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