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«STANDARDS FOR ASSOCIATIONS AND ALLIANCES OF THE U.S. NATIONAL VEGETATION CLASSIFICATION Michael Jennings1*, Orie Loucks2, David Glenn-Lewin3, Robert ...»

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STANDARDS FOR ASSOCIATIONS AND ALLIANCES

OF THE

U.S. NATIONAL VEGETATION CLASSIFICATION

Michael Jennings1*, Orie Loucks2, David Glenn-Lewin3, Robert Peet4, Don Faber-Langendoen5,

Dennis Grossman5, Antoni Damman6, Michael Barbour7, Robert Pfister8, Marilyn Walker9,

Stephen Talbot10, Joan Walker9, Gary Hartshorn11, Gary Waggoner1, Marc Abrams12,

Alison Hill9, David Roberts13, David Tart9

The Ecological Society of America Vegetation Classification Panel Version 1.0 May 2002

1. U.S. Geological Survey, 2. Miami University, 3. Unity College, 4. University of North Carolina, 5. NatureServe,

6. Kansas State University, 7. University of California-Davis, 8. University of Montana, 9. USDA Forest Service,

10. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 11. Organization for Tropical Studies, 12. Pennsylvania State University, 13.

Utah State University *Contact: U.S. Geological Survey, 530 S. Asbury St., Suite 1, Moscow, ID 83843, USA; jennings@uidaho.edu;

208-885-3901 Standards For Floristic Vegetation Classification, Version 1.0, May 2002 Dedicated to Antoni Damman 1932-2000 He worked hard to help create a unified vegetation classification in the United States, based on his wealth of experience from around the world. These standards have been shaped by his desire for a rigorous, plot-based approach to vegetation description and analysis.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The work of the Panel on Vegetation Classification has been made possible by support from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Gap Analysis Program, the Federal Geographic Data Committee, the National Science Foundation, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management, the Army Environmental Policy Institute, and the Ecological Society of America’s Sustainable Biosphere Program. Many individuals have contributed in one way or another to the development of these standards, including Mark Anderson, David Brown, Rex Crawford, Kathy Goodin, David Graber, John Harris, Miles Hemstrom, Bruce Kahn, Kat Maybury, Ken Metzler, William Michener, J. Scott Peterson, Thomas Philippi, Milo Pyne, Marion Reid, Rebecca Sharitz, Denice Shaw, Marie Loise Smith, Lesley Sneddon, Miklos Udvardy, Jan van Wagtendonk, Alan Weakley, Neil West, and Peter White. Jim MacMahon, Jerry Franklin, Jane Lubchenko, Mary Barber, and Julie Denslow fostered establishment of the Panel and liaison to the ESA Governing Board. Thanks to Elisabeth Brackney for help with editing. Special thanks to Lori Hidinger ofESA who provided unflagging staff support over the many years of deliberation, ebb, and flow, in developing these standards.

The purpose of this document is to provide both a technical and a general basis for describing and classifying the plant associations and alliances that are to be formally recognized as units of vegetation under the U.S. National Vegetation Classification (NVC). It should be useful to practitioners, researchers, and students of vegetation ecology. The standards presented here are to be used by anybody proposing additions, deletions, or other changes to the named units of the NVC. By implementing standards for field sampling, analysis, description, peer review, archiving, and dissemination, the Ecological Society of America’s Vegetation Classification Panel—in collaboration with the Federal Geographic Data Committee, NatureServe, the U.S. Geological Survey, and others—intends to advance our common understanding of vegetation and improve our capability to sustain this resource by formal, science-based processes.

We begin with the rationale for developing these standards. Then the history and development of vegetation classification in the United States is briefly reviewed. Standards for establishing and revising the floristic units of vegetation include the definition of association and alliance concepts, requirements for vegetation field plots, and classification and description of associations and alliances. A standard framework for peer review of types that are proposed for inclusion in the National Vegetation Classification is provided, as is a structure for data access and management. Finally, we conclude with a discussion of future prospects of and new directions in vegetation classification.

Because new knowledge will inevitably lead to the need for improvements to the standards described here, this document is written with the intention that it will be revised, with new versions produced as needed. Recommendations for revisions should be addressed to the Panel Chair, Vegetation Classification Panel, Ecological Society of America, Suite 400, 735 H St, NW, Washington, DC. Email contact information can be found at www.esa.org/vegwebpg.htm or contact the Ecological Society of America’s Science Program Office, 1707 H St, NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20006, Telephone: (202) 833-8773.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

SUMMARY

INTRODUCTION

1. RATIONALE

2. THE EMERGING FLORISTIC CLASSIFICATION

3. A BRIEF HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

3.1. DESCRIBING AND CLASSIFYING VEGETATION

3.1. A NATIONAL VEGETATION CLASSIFICATION IN THE UNITED STATES......2

STANDARDS FOR ESTABLISHMENT AND REVISION OF FLORISTIC UNITS OFVEGETATION





4. THE ASSOCIATION AND ALLIANCE CONCEPTS

4.1. ASSOCIATION

4.2 ALLIANCE

4.3. LIMITATIONS OF FLORISTIC CONCEPTS

4.4. STANDARDS FOR FLORISTIC UNITS

5. VEGETATION FIELD PLOTS

5.1. MAJOR TYPES OF REQUIRED DATA

5.2. STAND SELECTION AND PLOT DESIGN

5.3. VEGETATION PLOT DATA

5.4. LEGACY DATA

5.5. STANDARDS FOR VEGETATION PLOTS

6. CLASSIFICATION AND DESCRIPTION OF FLORISTIC UNITS

6.1. FROM PLANNING TO DATA INTERPRETATION

6.2. DOCUMENTATION AND DESCRIPTION OF TYPES

6.3. NOMENCLATURE OF VEGETATION TYPES

6.4. STANDARDS FOR DESCRIPTION OF FLORISTIC UNITS OF VEGETATION.31

7. PEER REVIEW

7.1. CLASSIFICATION CONFIDENCE

7.2. PEER-REVIEW TEAMS

7.3. PEER-REVIEW PROCESS

Standards For Floristic Vegetation Classification, Version 1.0, May 2002

7.4. PUBLICATION

7.5. STANDARDS FOR PEER REVIEW

8. DATA ACCESS AND MANAGEMENT

8.1. INFORMATION FLOW AND THE USER COMMUNITY

8.2. BASIC DATABASE REQUIREMENTS

8.3. COMPONENT DATABASE ARCHITECTURE

8.4. DATA MANAGEMENT

8.5. STANDARDS FOR DATA MANAGEMENT

PROSPECTS AND NEW DIRECTIONS

9. LOOKING AHEAD

9.1. DIRECTIONS IN THE UNITED STATES

9.2. POTENTIAL COLLABORATION WITH OTHER COUNTRIES

9.3. CONCLUSION

LITERATURE CITED

GLOSSARY

APPENDIX 1

APPENDIX 2

TABLES

FIGURES

TEXT BOXES

TEXT BOXES

Standards For Floristic Vegetation Classification, Version 1.0, May 2002

INTRODUCTION

1. RATIONALE A standardized, widely accepted vegetation classification for the United States is required for effective assessment, management, and inventory of the nation's ecosystems. These needs are increasingly apparent as individuals, private organizations, and governments grapple with the escalating rate and magnitude of alteration to natural vegetation (see Klopatek et al. 1979, Mack 1986, LaRoe et al. 1995, Mac 1999). Remnants of many natural vegetation types have become increasingly rare (Noss et al. 1995, Noss and Peters 1995, Barbour and Billings 1999). Some are now imperiled because of habitat loss or degradation, and others have disappeared entirely from the landscape without ever being formally documented (Grossman et al. 1994). Fifty-eight percent of the plant associations described by NatureServe—the most comprehensive set of such records known for the U.S.—are either presumed extinct or are in some danger of becoming extinct (NatureServe Explorer 2002). Losses of vegetation types represent losses in habitat diversity, leading directly to more species being in danger of extinction (Ehrlich 1997, Wilcove et al. 1998, Naeem et al. 1999). Predicted changes in climate, continued atmospheric pollution, ongoing species invasions, and land use changes are likely to cause further unprecedented and rapid alterations in vegetation (Overpeck et al. 1991, Vitousek et al. 1997, Morse et al. 1995).

Widespread changes in land use have led to increased social and economic conflicts, resulting in an increasing demand for more robust and timely information about remaining natural and seminatural environments. In addition to these environmental issues, a standardized classification is needed in order to make progress with basic issues in vegetation science, such as ecological processes, biomass productivity, or succession. We expect a standardized classification system to play a prominent role in guiding research, resource conservation, and ecosystem management, as well as in planning, restoration activities, and in predicting ecosystem responses to environmental change.

Vegetation ecologists have made significant progress toward a consistent vegetation classification that will meet the need for conservation and resource management (Loucks 1996, FGDC 1997, Grossman et al. 1998). The coordinated activities of the major institutions involved in vegetation classification and mapping in the United States has created the possibility for a fully functional, widely applied system of vegetation classification. Still lacking, however, are important components, such as widely accepted standards for terminology, documentation of vegetation types, field data acquisition, and data management tools. To help meet the need for a

credible, broadly accepted vegetation classification, the Ecological Society of America (ESA:

the professional organization for ecologists in the United States) formed a Panel on Vegetation Classification, composed of vegetation scientists, and joined with cooperating organizations such

Standards For Floristic Vegetation Classification, Version 1.0, May 2002

as the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Federal Geographic Data Committee, and NatureServe1. To formalize this partnership, the four participating organizations signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)2 in August 1998. This MOU defines the working relationship among the signers for the purpose of advancing the National Vegetation Classification.

The objectives of the ESA Vegetation Classification Panel are to (1) facilitate and support the development, implementation, and use of a standardized vegetation classification for the United States; (2) guide professional ecologists in defining and adopting standards for vegetation sampling and analysis in support of the classification; (3) maintain scientific credibility of the classification through peer review; and (4) promote and facilitate international collaboration in development of vegetation classifications and associated standards. In this document the Panel articulates and explains a set of standards aimed at achieving the first three of these objectives.

In July of 2000 The Nature Conservancy’s science staff that helped to develop the U.S. National Vegetation Classification transferred to a new organization, NatureServe, which now represents the interests of the Conservancy in the ongoing development of the NVC.

Forming a partnership to further develop and implement the national vegetation classification standards.

Memorandum of Understanding among ESA, TNC (NatureServe), USGS, and FGDC. 1999. Ecological Society of America, Washington, D.C., USA. 6pp. (http://esa.sdsc.edu/mou.htm)

Standards For Floristic Vegetation Classification, Version 1.0, May 2002

2. THE EMERGING FLORISTIC CLASSIFICATION

The ESA Panel on Vegetation Classification recognizes the Federal Geographic Data Committee’s (FGDC’s) “National Vegetation Classification Standard,” published in 1997, as the starting point for developing a national vegetation classification. The FGDC classification standard contains a physiognomic-floristic hierarchy with higher-level physiognomic units and lower-level floristic units (Figure 1). The standard introduced the classification hierarchy, documented the component elements of all except the floristic levels, and provided the context for defining those floristic levels. Between 1995 and 1996 the Panel concentrated on assisting the FGDC by reviewing proposed standards for the physiognomic categories (class, subclass, group, subgroup, and formation; Loucks 1996), as well as the specific physiognomic types within these categories.

The guiding principles established by the FGDC for the overall development of the NVC are shown below in Box 1 (FGDC 1997, Section 5.3). These principles, particularly the final one, are the basic criteria that the FGDC intended the floristic units be based on. The 1997 FGDC document also provided definitions for the floristic units of the classification: the alliance and association (Box 2). These definitions begin with the premise that a vegetation type represents a group of stands that have similar plant composition and physiognomic structure.

Furthermore, that the types must have clear diagnostic criteria to enable their recognition.

Although the 1997 FGDC standard includes the two floristic categories of the NVC hierarchy, Alliance and Association, it provides no list of recognized types, no details about nomenclature, nor methods for defining and describing alliances and associations. With respect to these categories, the document states “The current list of Alliances and Associations for the conterminous United States will be published by The Nature Conservancy in the spring of 1997.



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