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Montane-subalpine tall-herb vegetation (Mulgedio-Aconitetea) in central Europe: large-scale synthesis and comparison with northern Europe

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Many incompatible classifications have in the past been applied to the class of European montane-subalpine tall-herb communities (Mulgedio-Aconitetea). The aim of our paper is to develop a consistent classification of all vegetation types of this class from temperate and boreal Europe, derived from a database of individual relevés. We compiled available relevés from central, western and northern Europe. After excluding plots dominated by woody species, those outside the range of 9 – 50 m² size, and stands with prevailing diagnostic species of other classes, 993 relevés remained for the classification, mainly from central Europe. We used cluster analysis (group linkage with flexible beta and Sørensen index) to analyse the structure of the dataset, and translated the results into a syntaxonomic system. The major division is between the temperate order Calamagrostietalia villosae and the newly described northern European order Epilobio lactiflori-Geranietalia sylvatici. The temperate order can be subdivided into five alliances: (i) subalpine tall-forb communities (Adenostylion alliariae), (ii) tall-forb communities of montane-subalpine eutrophic pastures (Rumicion alpini), (iii) subalpine tall-forb and tall-grass communities that are closely related to alpine meadows (Calamagrostion villosae), (iv) mainly montane tall-grass and fern communities of acidic soils (Calamagrostion arundinaceae), and (v) montane tall-forb communities (Arunco dioici-Petasition albi). The northern European order was not divided further at present because too few data were available. We characterise all syntaxa from the alliances upwards ecologically and floristically, provide a revision of their nomenclature, and list the included associations. We also discuss the methodological problems any supra-national classification has to face due to the high heterogeneity of such data and the lack of a continent-wide relevé database of all vegetation types. The use of a priori lists of diagnostic species for the delimitation of the focal syntaxon and the restriction of the analysis to relevés with similar plot sizes turned out to be crucial to derive consistent results. This study demonstrates that the analysis of a comprehensive supra-national database of individual relevés can provide insights that go beyond what is achievable at a regional scale or by comparison of synoptic tables.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 November 2010

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  • Phytocoenologia (ISSN 0340-269X) is an international, peer-reviewed journal of plant community ecology. It is devoted to vegetation survey and classification at any organizational and spatial scale and without restriction to certain methodological approaches. The journal publishes original papers that develop new vegetation typologies as well as applied studies that use such typologies, for example, in vegetation mapping, ecosystem modelling, nature conservation, land use management or monitoring. Particularly encouraged are methodological studies that design and compare tools for vegetation classification and mapping, such as algorithms, databases and nomenclatural principles. Papers dealing with conceptual and theoretical bases of vegetation survey and classification are also welcome. While large-scale studies are preferred, regional studies will be considered when filling important knowledge gaps or presenting new methods.

    Phytocoenologia was founded by Reinhold Tüxen in 1973 and is published in collaboration with the International Association for Vegetation Science (IAVS; The journal closely cooperates with various subgroups of IAVS and serves as publication outlet for their workshops as well as for selected sessions of the IAVS Symposia. It contains special sections on “Phytosociological Nomenclature” and “Ecoinformatics”. Guest-edited Special Features that fall within the scope of the journal are also published.

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