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The association concept revisited

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Although there is no consense among phytosociologists about how to define an association, little attention has been given to this question in the recent literature. Braun-Blanquet 's concept was based on character species with restricted geographical validity. However, all efforts to clarify the geographical limits of character species in a methodologically sound way have failed so far. The re-examination of the original definition of the association established by the International Botanical Congress at Brussels in 1910 reveals a possible solution: (1) The first and most important criterion for an association is its "definite floristic composition". It is shown that this criterion is only fulfilled if the syntaxon has a sufficient number of good diagnostic species. It is recommended to use the "total cover value ratio" to measure the diagnostic value of a species and to consider those species as good diagnostic species which have a total cover value at least ten times higher than in the compared syntaxon. (2) Associations belonging to the same formation should clearly differ from each other either in their site conditions or in their distribution. Floristical difference contains no useful information as long as it can't be interpreted as reflection of a different habitat or a different vegetation history. Population processes, intraspecific variation, autocorrelation, microhabitat mosaics and stochastic events set an absolute limit to all classification efforts.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2006

More about this publication?
  • 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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