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Weak Points in Methods of Phytosociology

It is a delightful fact that even after a century of its existence the phytosociology still undergoes processes of self-criticism and inovations. The main purpose is the methodology objectivization, which has for long remained more or less similar as in the very beginnings at the break of the 19th and 20th centuries. Consequently, the phytosociology still often has, in the mouth of the other plant ecologists, a bitter aftertaste of a rotten pseudo-science rather than an exact, modern ecological science.

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Preview of the essay: Weak Points in Methods of Phytosociology

The stressed advantage of phytosociology is its uniqueness as a system decribing the vegetation variability at large spatial scales, providing the adequate amount of the necessary information – the complete species composition. Phytosociology has in fact created the so far only utilizable (or better: used) system of vegetation types , no matter how geographically limited and burdened with subjectivity. The influence of observer’s subjectivity or the seasonality concerning the data sampling had been examined for example by Smith (1944), Gotfryd & Hansell (1985), Kirby et al. (1986) or Lepš & Hadincová (1992) the heterogeneity or incompletedness of data (meaning the proportion of the described associations) influencing the properties of the vegetation databases were pointed at by Chytrý (2001) and Chytrý & Rafajová (2003).
Rather than the above-mentioned shortcomings of a „technical“ character, a much more striking problem is, in my opinion, the fact that the existing system of syntaxa cannot be perfectly applied to the most of the existing vegetation – concerning its variability at one hand, and the spatially prevailing vegetation types at the other. Doubtless, the universal applicability should be an obvious requirement put on the phytosociology. Hence, let us attempt a purely ideal definition of the phytosociology aims and scope (for the explanation of terms see Moravec et al. 1994): „ The basic task of phytosociology is to create ...

... „formations“ approaches. Phytosociologically capable vegetation is only that definable by combinations of ecologically quite narrowly defined species. The corresponding sites are usually the species-richest places in the landscapes, hot-spots of the so important biodiversity. This implies the importance of phytosociology for the nature conservation. Vegetation composed of ecologically poorly delimited species can however be only classified using some formation-based system, or one of the approaches suggested in part 3. Looking at the landscape, especially the recent one, makes one to assume that the phytosociology is not applicable to more than 10% of the ground, depending on the regional differences.
It is obvious that the fresh-minded phytosociologists are well aware of the mentioned shortcomings. Indicated solutions are attainable and there are doubtless many other approaches even to newly-emerged problems. The purpose of this paper was nothing more than contribute to a serious discussion about the Central European vegetation science.
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Natural Sciences


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