Vegetation of Europe: hierarchical floristic classification system of vascular plant, bryophyte, lichen, and algal communities

L. Mucina*, Helga Bültmann, Klaus Dierssen, Jean-Paul Theurillat, Thomas Raus, Andraz Carni, Kateřina Šumberová, Wolfgang Willner, J. Dengler, J.H.J. Schaminee, S.M. Hennekens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

682 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: Vegetation classification consistent with the Braun-Blanquet approach is
widely used in Europe for applied vegetation science, conservation planning
and landmanagement. During the long history of syntaxonomy,many concepts
and names of vegetation units have been proposed, but there has been no single
classification system integrating these units. Here we (1) present a comprehensive, hierarchical, syntaxonomic system of alliances, orders and classes of Braun-Blanquet syntaxonomy for vascular plant, bryophyte and lichen, and algal communities of Europe; (2) briefly characterize in ecological and geographic terms accepted syntaxonomic concepts; (3) link available synonyms to these accepted concepts; and (4) provide a list of diagnostic species for all classes.
Location: European mainland, Greenland, Arctic archipelagos (including Iceland,
Svalbard, Novaya Zemlya), Canary Islands,Madeira, Azores, Caucasus, Cyprus.
Methods: We evaluated approximately 10 000 bibliographic sources to create a
comprehensive list of previously proposed syntaxonomic units. These units were
evaluated by experts for their floristic and ecological distinctness, clarity of geographic distribution and compliance with the nomenclature code. Accepted
units were compiled into three systems of classes, orders and alliances
(EuroVegChecklist, EVC) for communities dominated by vascular plants
(EVC1), bryophytes and lichens (EVC2) and algae (EVC3).
Results: EVC1 includes 109 classes, 300 orders and 1108 alliances; EVC2
includes 27 classes, 53 orders and 137 alliances, and EVC3 includes 13 classes,
24 orders and 53 alliances. In total 13 448 taxawere assigned as indicator species to classes of EVC1, 2087 to classes of EVC2 and 368 to classes of EVC3. Accepted syntaxonomic concepts are summarized in a series of appendices, and detailed information on each is accessible through the software tool EuroVegBrowser.
Conclusions: This paper features the first comprehensive and critical account of
European syntaxa and synthesizes more than 100 yr of classification effort by
European phytosociologists. It aims to document and stabilize the concepts and
nomenclature of syntaxa for practical uses, such as calibration of habitat classification used by the European Union, standardization of terminology for environmental assessment, management and conservation of nature areas, landscape planning and education. The presented classification systems provide a baseline for future development and revision of European syntaxonomy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-264
JournalApplied Vegetation Science
Issue numberSuppl. 1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Algal communities
  • Alliance
  • Azonal vegetation
  • Bryophyte communities
  • Class
  • European Vegetation Survey
  • EuroVegChecklist
  • International Code of Phytosociological Nomenclature
  • Lichen communities
  • Order
  • Syntaxonomy
  • Thallophyte vegetation
  • Vascular plant communities
  • Vegetation classification
  • Zonal vegetation


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