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Seed plants of Fiji: an ecological analysis

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An annotated list of indigenous Fijian seed plant genera is presented and comprises 484 genera and 1315 species in 137 families. The relative diversity of the largest families and genera in Fiji is indicated and compared with floras in New Caledonia and the Upper Watut Valley, Papua New Guinea. Differences and similarities appear to be due to biogeographical/phylogenetic factors rather than ecological differences or means of dispersal. Generic diversity for the seed plants as a whole is greatest between 0–100 m and decreases monotonically with altitude. However, in the largest family, Orchidaceae, maximum diversity occurs between 200–400 m. Fifty percent of the families are recorded from shore habitat. Twenty‐seven percent of the families and 80 species occur in or around mangrove, where the most diverse families are Orchidaceae, Rubiaceae, and the legumes. Some of the mangrove‐associate species are pantropical or Indo‐Pacific but most are locally or regionally endemic. Fifty‐six percent of the Fijian families are recorded on limestone. Twenty‐nine species are restricted to limestone and 12 species usually occur on limestone. The importance of calcium in reducing the effects of salinity is emphasized and 39 species are recorded from both mangrove and limestone. A plagiotropic habit occurs in 38 species which occur on limestone or around beaches, and 20 of these are Pacific endemics. Genera restricted to higher altitudes include many present elsewhere in Melanesia but absent from Australia despite suitable habitat there, again indicating the importance of biogeographical and historical factors. Altitudinal anomalies in Fiji taxa are cited and include 7 anomalously high records from northern Viti Levu, a site of major uplift, and 22 anomalously low altitudinal records in the Lau Group, a site of subsidence. It is suggested that the Fijian flora has not been derived from immigrants from Asia, but has evolved more or less in situ. Taxa would have survived as metapopulations on the individually ephemeral volcanic islands always found at oceanic subduction zones and hot spots, and the atolls which characterize areas of subsidence. The complex geology of Fiji is determined by its position between two subduction zones of opposite polarity, the Vanuatu and Tonga Trenches, in what is currently a region of transform faulting. The large islands comprise fragments of island arcs that have amalgamated and welded together. There has been considerable uplift as well as subsidence in the islands and it is suggested that both these processes have had drastic effects on the altitudinal range of the taxa. Limestone and mangrove floras could have provided a widespread, diverse ancestral species pool from which freshwater swamp forest, lowland rainforest, dry forest, secondary forest, thickets, and montane forest have been derived during phases of uplift. © 2006 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2006, 89, 407–431.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 2006


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