Altitude zonation in the Pyrenees. A geobotanic interpretation
Ninot, J.M.; Carrillo, E.; Font, X.; Carreras, J.; Ferré, A.; Masalles, R.M.; Soriano, I.; Vigo, J.
We present a review of the main trends of vegetation zonation in the entire Pyrenean mountain system, including previous overviews and a great many papers on flora and vegetation. The main floristic territories are roughly set as parallel zones along the main axis. The high mountain zone forms a central core, characterized by the dominant Boreo-Alpine element. The Atlantic mid altitudes and lowlands (mainly on the north face of the chain) and the mid altitudes of the Iberian side bear Medioeuropean flora as their dominant element, but include a good representation of the transitional Submediterranean element. Lower down, the Iberian lowlands harbour dominant Mediterranean flora. This landscape zonation may be understood in terms of the Alpine model, by which high mountains include three belts (subnival, alpine, subalpine), the mid altitudes show one belt on the Atlantic face (montane) and two on the Iberian face (montane, submontane), and the low altitudes form a basal belt with two contrasting faces (Atlantic and Mediterranean).The vegetation belts are briefly defined in terms of the main potential communities, since these are the most closely related to bioclimate. Thus, the boundaries between belts mostly coincide with boundaries of potential domains, but a few vegetation domains occur in two neighbouring belts. Then, substrata properties and regional climatic variation within the same belt produce noticeable shifts in the potential domains. This makes the basal and montane belts more diverse throughout the Pyrenean range than the high mountain belts. The boundaries between belts run a bit higher on south-facing slopes than on north-facing slopes, reflecting the effect played by topographic thermal and hydric drivers on vegetation. Also, the somewhat higher location of the boundaries in the central sector than towards the edges of the chain is connected with the continental character of the inner Pyrenean area.