Biogeography of Banksia in southwestern Australia
Comprehensive new data bases on the taxonomy, distribution, ecology and climate of Banksia (Proteaceae) were used to study the biogeography of the sixty endemic species in southwestern Australia. They occur at the wettest coastal tip, with up to 1.5 m rainfall p.a., 1500 km along the north coast, 1000 km along the south coast and up to 450 km inland to the desert margin, with as low as 0.2 m rainfall p.a. The largest areas (sum of 30´ lat.×30´ long. grid cells) containing banksias were under much more arid climates than those with highest species density. Species density was usually lowest at the climatic extremes. Two nodes of species richness and ten floristic groups, each with a characteristic climate, landscape, vegetation and soil types and suite of indicator and endemic species, were recognized. A case is made for resurrecting the Lesueur (northern node) and Stirling (west portion of the southern node) phytogeographic districts, together with separating the West (east portion of the southern node) from the East Eyre district. These species-rich areas coincide with nutrient impoverished sands and laterite associated with dissected uplands having low, highly sclerophyllous vegetation. The distribution of strongly serotinous species and those with persistent florets is consistent with greater reliance on fire for creating suitable recruitment conditions with increasing aridity. The distribution of needle-leaved species is only partly explained by their superior drought tolerance. A preliminary transplant trial with two Banksia species showed that their distribution was only partly restricted by their current climatic profile.
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