Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Habitat, occurrence and conservation status of the Saharo-Macaronesian and Southern-Mediterranean element Fagonia cretica L. (Zygophyllaceae) in Italy


Fagonia cretica L. is an important component of Mediterranean dry grasslands and a rare and isolated species of Italian flora. In this study, an assessment is presented on the distribution, habitat, and conservation status of F. cretica in Italy. The results of field investigation and herbarium analysis show that this species grows in a small area within the southern Calabria region characterized by a warmest and driest Mediterranean climate on the Italian peninsula. F. cretica is a semi-desert plant species growing in Italy in only one peripheral and isolated population at the northern limit of its distribution. Plant community analysis, using the phytosociological method, shows that F. cretica grows in wintergreen perennial dry grasslands dominated by Lygeum spartum and Hyparrhenia hirta. F. cretica plant communities are located in thermo-xeric habits such as south-, southeast- and east-facing slopes on clays and sandy clays in southern Calabria. The population of F. cretica is fragmented in six neighbouring localities, with two of which belonging to a Site of Community Importance (SCI). The conservation status of F. cretica population is not very good, and is defined as “Critically Endangered” in accordance with IUCN criteria. There are many threats affecting the F. cretica population in Italy, primarily the changes in land uses due to urban expansion and reforestation with exotic plants. The southern end of the Italian peninsula hosts other plants from thermo-xeric habits that do not adapt to the current local climate. This territory can be considered as a microrefugia for plants currently distributed in the arid territory of the southern Mediterranean. These results contribute to the discussion of some conservation measures, and the possibility of establishing a micro-reserve. For all these reasons, we propose to include F. cretica in the lists of protected plant species at regional (Calabria) and country (Italy) scales in Italy.


biodiversity; ecology; peripheral isolated populations; phytosociology; microrefugia; southern Italy

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