Since von Humboldt, recognizing and using elevational subdivisions is at the core of biogeographical and ecological studies in mountain ecosystems. However, despite the large use of vegetational belts, their conceptual definition and practical identification appear to be surprisingly loose and inconsistent. Many authors use variations in climatic conditions to identify elevational belts. These belts are useful to set a framework for ecological studies but cannot be considered a surrogate of vegetational belts, because factors different from climate play a major role in determining the distribution of plant assemblages. Vegetation physiognomy can be used to identify ‘biome-type’ belts that are useful for comparisons across geographical areas with different floras. However, to properly reflect ecological conditions at local scale, vegetational belts should be based on species composition. One of the most effective statistical approaches for this purpose is the use spatially constrained cluster analysis. The use of indicator species analysis may be also recommended to identify the species that most characterize vegetational belts. This can help researchers to identify belts in the field. Since species identification can be difficult, some authors use plant functional types for belt delimitation. Plant functional types can be helpful to trace the adaptative responses of vegetation along elevational gradients, but cannot be recommended as a standard way to identify belts. In general, criteria to identify vegetational belts can be based on both vegetation structure (namely physiognomy and structural parameters) and/or species composition, depending on the scale and the aim of the analyses, and they should be clearly stated.

Recognizing and interpreting vegetational belts: New wine in the old bottles of a von Humboldt's legacy

Fattorini S.
;
Di Biase L.;
2019-01-01

Abstract

Since von Humboldt, recognizing and using elevational subdivisions is at the core of biogeographical and ecological studies in mountain ecosystems. However, despite the large use of vegetational belts, their conceptual definition and practical identification appear to be surprisingly loose and inconsistent. Many authors use variations in climatic conditions to identify elevational belts. These belts are useful to set a framework for ecological studies but cannot be considered a surrogate of vegetational belts, because factors different from climate play a major role in determining the distribution of plant assemblages. Vegetation physiognomy can be used to identify ‘biome-type’ belts that are useful for comparisons across geographical areas with different floras. However, to properly reflect ecological conditions at local scale, vegetational belts should be based on species composition. One of the most effective statistical approaches for this purpose is the use spatially constrained cluster analysis. The use of indicator species analysis may be also recommended to identify the species that most characterize vegetational belts. This can help researchers to identify belts in the field. Since species identification can be difficult, some authors use plant functional types for belt delimitation. Plant functional types can be helpful to trace the adaptative responses of vegetation along elevational gradients, but cannot be recommended as a standard way to identify belts. In general, criteria to identify vegetational belts can be based on both vegetation structure (namely physiognomy and structural parameters) and/or species composition, depending on the scale and the aim of the analyses, and they should be clearly stated.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11697/140578
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