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Vegetation relations in the border regions of NE Finland and Russian Karelia: a review of Wainio (1878)

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E. A. Vainio (Wainio) defended his doctoral thesis, “Vegetation relations in the border regions of NE Finland and Russian Karelia” in 1878 at the age of 24. This was the first biological dissertation published in Finnish. In his work Vainio presented relations between plant species in his study area, and identified factors that increased or decreased the dominance of different kinds of vegetation and distributional limits for different species. Vainio expressed the early idea of site-type classification based on vegetation patterns: “Plant species tend to grow in certain clusters which occupy bigger or smaller surfaces, which offer them similar kinds of physical-chemical conditions”. He defined the concept of plant topography, clarified which plant species clusters were present in his study area, what chemical-physical conditions defined them and the reasons for their existence. A. K. Cajander developed these ideas further in his classical forest and mire site-type classifications in the early twentieth century. Although Vainio's work was ahead of his time since he not only described plant communities but also tried to explain their existence with a site-ecological approach, his Finnish colleagues did not cite Vainio's study during his lifetime, mainly for political reasons. His life demonstrates that a person's influence may be hidden because of personal and/or political causes.
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Keywords: E. A. Vainio; plant geography; plant topography; vegetation classification

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Finnish Forest Research Institute, Vantaa, Finland 2: Department of Forest Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

Publication date: 2011-02-01

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