Do we really need phytosociological classes to calibrate Ellenberg indicator values?

J.P.M. Witte, J.R. von Asmuth

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Wamelink et al. (2002) calibrated Ellenberg indicator values for acidity and water availability against measured soil pH and measured mean spring groundwater level (MSL), respectively. Linear regression between indicator value and measured value of all the observations gave a poor fit. Regression lines per phytosociological vegetation class, on the other hand. generally described the observations well. In this article we demonstrate that this result is, at least partly, an artefact. First. because the data utilized are likely to contain systematic errors, and second, because a wrong regression model was applied. A sigmoid function for the relation between the indicator value for water availability and MSL gives a far better fit than a linear function does. 'Vegetation class' is not an obvious choice as an extra explanatory variable for the regression, as it is only a convenient label for vegetation and should not be used as if it were a real independent environmental variable. In general, indicator values of plant species should be calibrated against environmental variables with great care. This implies that researchers should have knowledge about the ecological demands plants make on their environment, as well as about the spatial and temporal variability of this environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-618
JournalJournal of Vegetation Science
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • field-measurements

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