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Understanding properly the `potential natural vegetation' concept

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This is a response to critical comments concerning the inappropriate use of the potential natural vegetation (PNV) concept made in a recent contribution to the Commentary section of this journal. We consider that the PNV concept has been misinterpreted. PNV has been used extensively in several European countries since the mid-1950s and was never intended to be used to make a prediction of what vegetation would dominate in an area if human influence were removed. PNV maps express hypothetical assumptions of what corresponds to dominant or natural vegetation in each area. Remnants of the vegetation of the past provided by palaeopalynology and other disciplines provide valuable information for interpreting modern vegetation, but natural changes and anthropogenic influences operating over the last millennia have to be taken into account. Annex I of the Habitats Directive provides a balanced list of habitat types for implementing conservation policies within the European Union.
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Keywords: Habitats Directive; Spain; human impact; phytosociology; potential natural vegetation; primitive vegetation; succession; vegetation dynamics; vegetation mapping; vegetation series

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Plant Biology, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of La Laguna, Campus de Anchieta, 38071 La Laguna, Spain 2: Department of Plant Biology, Faculty of Sciences, Campus de Teatinos, University of Málaga, 29071 Malaga, Spain 3: Botanical Garden of the University of Valencia, Carrer Quart, 80, 46008 Valencia, Spain 4: Department of Organism and Systems Biology, University of Oviedo, Catedrático Rodrigo Uría s/n, 33071 Oviedo, Spain 5: Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, University of Castilla-La Mancha, 45071 Toledo, Spain 6: Department of Botany, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Santiago de Compostela, 15782 Santiago de Compostela, Spain 7: Department of Biodiversity and Environmental Management, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of León, 24071 Leon, Spain 8: Phytosociological Research Center CIF, José María Usandizaga, 46, 28409 Los Negrales, Madrid, Spain 9: Department of Plant Biology II, Faculty of Pharmacy, Complutense University, 28040 Madrid, Spain

Publication date: 2010-11-01

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