Mte Research And The Global Forum

Critics sometimes argue that funding of, and attention to, MTE research is disproportionate because they occupy only about 2% of the Earth's land surface according to Koppen Cs climate zones (Möller 1982), or less than 1% using the more narrowly circumscribed definition of Aschmann (1973). This supposes that importance is a linear function of area, which implies that the collective GNP of all MTEs is approximately 4% that of the USA (Europa World Yearbook 1994). MTEs, however, have some distinctive industries associated with them which play keystone roles in the economies of some areas. South Africa's deciduous fruit industry is centred in the country's winter rainfall (Meditcrranean-climate) region, as is its wheat production. Many countries of the Mediterranean basin are also reliant to a large extent on natural ecosystems to draw income from tourism in addition to agriculture, and it might be interesting to calculate the extent to which the southern Californian movie industry relies directly and indirectly on attributes of the region's Mediterranean-type climate.

The history of ecological research in Mediterranean-climate regions reported in this chapter is far from complete, yet it should be evident that the research community involved with MTEs comprises a cohesive collegium which has made considerable investment of its diverse skiiis in the search for new ecological paradigms. MTE research therefore provides a scientific perspective well integrated with patterns of human need, and provides scope for developing visions of policy and planning lor sustainable management of a wide spectrum of natural and human-impacted systems (Davis and Rutherford 1995).

MTEs must also not be viewed in isolation - a factor implicit in the production of this volume. Criteria which delineate boundaries of activity and interest are often, for practical reasons, arbitrary. What comprises an MTE is by no means unequivocal or closed to interpretation. There are generally recognized points of convergence around which more comparative MTE work is done, and which relate to similarities of climate and sclerophyll shrub vegetation. However, affinities with differently composed systems are many, both in terms of vegetation type, and in broad geographical terms (Figure 7.7). Mountain fynbos of the South African southwest, for instance, is also regarded as a heathland vegetation (Moll and Jarman 1984), as is the kwongan of Western Australia. Matorral of central Chile intergrades northward into arid shrub-lands (Fuentes et al. 1995), while jarrah (Eucalyptus marginal a), karri (E. diver-sicolor) and marri (E. calophylla) define a recognized forest-type vegetation in Mediterranean-climate western Australia (Dell et al. 1989). The temperate forests of southern Europe also penetrate well into the Mediterranean basin, and several oaks of California [Quercus douglasii, Q. engelmanii. Q. agrifolia. Q. wislizenii and Q. lobata) form a distinctive savanna vegetation type in winter-rainfall California (Pavlik et al. 1991; Huntsinger and Bartolome 1992). Climatic gradations from the precisely delined areas (Aschmann 1973) into sub- and non-Mediterranean climate regions create equally fuzzy boundaries. Those areas of transition are clearly places where research overlap is not only possible, but is necessary for a more complete understanding of the systems on either side. In terms of structural and functional perspectives as well, MTEs can be seen to overlap with many other system types (Figure 7.7). Knowledge about lire behavior is a well-established area of MTE research which overlaps significantly with forestry systems (Conrad and Oechel 1982), while agroeco-system research in Mediterranean-climate regions is an important activity in most of the regions, and one where interaction between different interest groups can yield a valuable flow of information.

Vegetation

Vegetation

Figure 7.7 MTEs overlap with other system types with regard to both the composition and structure of their vegetation (above), and their physiographicaily dictated function (below)

Islands etc..

Figure 7.7 MTEs overlap with other system types with regard to both the composition and structure of their vegetation (above), and their physiographicaily dictated function (below)

In this chapter, the question of biodiversity's effect on ecosystem function has, through the absence of previous focus, been restricted to indirect investigation, as all the scientifically based information presented has been collected to answer different questions. It may be fair to ask whether there is another way to approach the question. The degree of interrelatedness between the many driving forces and their driven counterparts may make it an impossible task to confront head-on. The ultimate usefulness of ecological knowledge to environmental management practice relies to a large extent on the resolving of perceived ecological complexity into the simpler units of testable models and tractable strategies. Continued work by specialists on MTE subsystems, guided by the important overarching concepts of biodiversity, will help to clarify ways in which we should be asking the questions about how diversity affects ecosystem function. An MTE protocol for well-designed experimental research into the links between diversity and system function is the next task.

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