Biological information systems, a new tool in vegetation science

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingAbstract


Several steps in the scientific development of vegetation research can be distinguish­ed. For a long time, most work emphasized inventory and description, at first merely using qualitative approaches, but later based becoming increasingly quantitative. As time progressed, a better understanding of the ecology and functioning of plant commu­nities became a major topic, reflected in the development of research branches likes eco­hydrology, landscape ecology and experimental ecology. More recently, increasing effort has focussed on the integration of knowledge from different disciplines. This is a demanding and difficult task, for which computer models and so-called information systems prove to be helpful tools. As an example of such a development, the information system SynBioSys Europe, an initiative of the European Vegetation Survey, will be demonstrated. SynBioSys Europe is operational on three levels, that of the plant species, plant community and landscape. On the species level, SynBioSys Europe is developing (in co-operation with the Euro+Med Plantbase project) a synonymised species list for the European vascular and cryptogam flora. At present, the available list of Flora Europaea is incomplete and outdated. Moreover, it is lacking the necessary computerized links with national floras and biological databases. On the vegetation level, SynBioSys Europe uses the newly completed conspectus of European vegetation types. This hierarchic overview comprises 15 formations, 80 vegetation classes, 233 orders and 933 alliances. The classification is based on vegetation descriptions, so-called relevés, of which more than 1.5 million have been made during the last century in Europe.For input, processing and presentation of these phytosociolo­gical data, the software package TURBOVEG (a comprehensive database management system) was designed. Currently, TURBOVEG has been installed in more than 25 countries throughout Europe, resulting in a series of national databases. For the categorisation of landscape types in SynBioSys Europe, the recently published Map of the Natural Vegetation of Europe will be used as a basis. More than 100 geobotanists from 31 European countries cooperated on this map, its legend and the explanatory text. The map has been printed in 9 sheets at a scale of 1:2.5 million. The legend is built-up of different hierarchical levels. It comprises 19 major formations and 700 mapping units. Computerized links between the species checklist, national floras, vegetation tables and landscape types will enable standard query routines to highlight environmental conditions necessary for sustaining plant communities and habitats in Europe
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWater resources and vegetation; 46th symposium of the International Association for Vegetation Science; abstracts, Napoli (Italy), 8-14 June 2003
EditorsF. Pedrotti
Place of PublicationCamerino (Italy)
PublisherUniversitu di Camerino
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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