This thesis investigates opportunities, challenges and limitations for plant ecological research in the context of Mediterranean cliffs. In particular, chasmophytic species, whose natural habitats are very steep, limestone mountain slopes in the proximity of the sea, in the Central and Western part of the Mediterranean area are considered as study objects. Studies were carried out in the coastal mountain belts of both North-western Sicily and Dianic coasts in the Valencian Community (Spain). The first chapter, entitled “The complexity of environmental factors: cliff microclimate”, investigates the variability of cliff microclimate in three different areas in Sicily and Spain, analysing the environmental conditions created by the cliff at very fine scale. Six independent and comparable datasets including the main meteorological variables were compiled in a total period of 18 months. The resulting spectra of environmental conditions are compared pairwise along two key environmental gradients: North/South cliff orientation and proximity to the sea. Intraspecific leaf traits are used in order to investigate variations in the functional response of plants living on opposite orientations. The resulting variation is then correlated with the influence of microclimatic conditions created by slope and functional aspects of the aforementioned plant traits. The second chapter, entitled “Compositional data and analyses of areas and plant communities in the coastal cliffs of the Valencian Community (Spain)”, presents an ordination of the study sites and of the plant species inhabiting the cliff zones of the mountain belt along the coasts of the Dianic region in Eastern Spain. The study revealed significant correlations between the vegetation units and the sites with reference to the broad North/South geographical orientation. However, it was poorly informative in respect to reveal the major differences observed in the structure of the plant assemblage related to the micro- topographic variations recorded in the dataset. In the third chapter, entitled “UAV (drone) surveys for the study of plant- microtopography relationships and for the conservation of rare species”, a proposed survey methodology for investigating inaccessible vertical environments is described. Challenges and opportunities of plant ecological research in these typically inaccessible areas were also analysed. A first set of data is comprised of partial and total visual census of two narrow endemic cliff species in the Spanish and Italian study areas. Through the use of aerial close- range photogrammetry and 3D modelling, it was possible to study the effects of micro- topography on niche segregation, both at community and species level. Ordination methods were used to correlate selected endemic species and entire plant assemblages to environmental factors such as local and global aspect, slope and distance from cliff edges. The fourth chapter, entitled “Distribution, ecology, conservation status and phylogeography of Pseudoscabiosa limonifolia, a paleo-endemic chasmophytic species from Sicily (Italy)”, is addressed to analyse in details the phylogeographic structure of a cliff narrow endemic species, Pseudoscabiosa limonifolia (VAHL) DEVESA (Caprifoliaceae, subfamily Dipsacaceae), also taking in consideration its closest sister taxa. Furthermore, its total distribution was determined by field surveys, characterizing its habitat, and assessing its conservation status as Vulnerable according to IUCN red list guidelines.
(2020). Ecological aspects of plants inhabiting Mediterranean cliffs. Challenges and prospects of life in vertical environments.
|Titolo:||Ecological aspects of plants inhabiting Mediterranean cliffs. Challenges and prospects of life in vertical environments|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2-dic-2020|
|Citazione:||(2020). Ecological aspects of plants inhabiting Mediterranean cliffs. Challenges and prospects of life in vertical environments.|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||4.2 Tesi di dottorato|