Distribution of plant species in Israel in relation to spatial variation in rainfall

Ronen Kadmon*, Danin A. Vinoam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Relations between the distribution of herbaceous and woody species from the flora of Israel and the variation (25 - 900 mm) in mean annual rainfall are described using a grid-based approach integrating multivariate techniques (cluster analysis and DCA-ordination) and GIS. The analysis was based on an extensive data base of vascular plant records in 10 km x 10 km grid cells representing the climatic zones of Israel. Cluster analysis revealed three geographically distinct clusters of grid cells which could be arranged along the main rainfall gradient in the study area. The main subdivision is between cells from the Mediterranean region and cells from the more arid region. The second subdivision separated cells from the arid region into two distinct groups which differed significantly in rainfall. Clustering of herbaceous and woody species was similar, but boundaries separating adjacent clusters based on woody species were consistently linked to more rainy areas. Cell scores on the first DCA-axis were significantly correlated with mean annual rainfall, but this relationship was not linear. Log-transformation of the rainfall data resulted in a higher correlation between the DCA-scores and rainfall, indicating that variation in rainfall had a stronger effect on species composition in relatively dry than in more mesic regions. Slopes of linear regression models relating cell scores on the first DCA-axis to mean annual rainfall, as well as the corresponding R2-values, were highest in the desert, intermediate in the dry Mediterranean, and lowest in the mesic Mediterranean territory. These results indicate that both the per-unit effect of rainfall on plant species composition and its relative importance as a determinant of compositional variation decreased from relatively dry to more mesic regions. The length of the first axis, as well as the slopes of regression models relating cell scores on the first DCA-axis to mean annual rainfall were consistently higher in the case of woody species which are characterized by a higher rate of compositional variation. Due to lack of comparable data, it is difficult to evaluate whether our results can be generalized to other regions. However, an analysis of data obtained from different parts of the world points to a considerable variability in the degree to which rainfall affects patterns of floristic variation. Our findings that compositional responses to rainfall may vary between different groups of species and may depend on the part of the rainfall range which is being considered may partially explain this inconsistency.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)421-432
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Vegetation Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1999


  • Climate
  • Compositional gradient
  • DCA
  • Numerical classification
  • Ordination
  • Rainfall
  • Species composition


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