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Bothalia - African Biodiversity & Conservation

On-line version ISSN 2311-9284
Print version ISSN 0006-8241


YOUNG, Andrew J.  and  DESMET, Phillip G.. The distribution of the dwarf succulent genus Conophytum N.E.Br. (Aizoaceae) in southern Africa. Bothalia (Online) [online]. 2016, vol.46, n.1, pp.1-13. ISSN 2311-9284.

BACKGROUND: The dwarf succulent genus Conophytum N.E.Br. is one of the most species rich in the Aizoceae. The genus is most closely associated with a region of high floral endemism and biodiversity, the Succulent Karoo biome in south-western Africa. OBJECTIVES: To examine the distribution of Conophytum in south-western Namibia and in the Northern and Western Cape Provinces of South Africa. METHOD: A database comprising 2798 locality records representing all known species and subspecies of the genus Conophytum has been constructed. RESULTS: The genus is primarily restricted to the arid winter-rainfall region of the Northern and Western Cape Provinces of South Africa and south-western Namibia, within the Greater Cape Floristic Region. Whilst taxa are found across all the main biomes in the region (the Succulent Karoo, Nama Karoo, Desert and Fynbos biomes), 94% of Conophytum taxa are found only in the Succulent Karoo biome and predominantly (88% of taxa) within South Africa. Endemism within specific bioregions is a feature of the genus and ~60% of taxa are endemic to the Succulent Karoo. Approximately 28% of all taxa could be considered point endemics. Whilst the genus has a relatively wide geographical range, we identify a pronounced centre of endemism in the southern Richtersveld. CONCLUSION: The genus Conophytum can be used as a good botanical model for studying patterns of diversity and speciation in the Succulent Karoo biome, the effects of climate change on dwarf succulents, and for informing conservation planning efforts.

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