A comparison of life forms of New Zealand alpine plants with those of the Andes
It has long been known that the New Zealand flora shows considerable affinity with that of South America, particularly the Subantarctic Biogeographic Province. It is less well known that this affinity extends, to a lesser degree and with a large disjunction, to the equatorial Paramo Province. Do life forms and vegetation show comparable similarities?
To answer this question, life form parameters (including whole plant, leaf group, leaf, stem architecture, roots) from alpine plants of the southern South Island of New Zealand are compared with those from three areas of the Andes: equatorial paramos; subtropical high-andean; and temperate alpine (Tierra del Fuego). Climatic parameters were taken to test their relation to life form. The enormous area and variability involved make this only a pilot study. Tussock-shrubland communities of the low alpine zone of New Zealand seem to show the closest similarity in vegetation and life forms to the Paramo Province, rather than to alpine Tierra del Fuego at more similar latitudes. The high alpine zone of New Zealand seems to show the closest similarity to the subtropical high-Andean Province, particularly cryptofruticetum communities of the Cumbres Calchaquies. Details of these comparisons will be outlined.