Spatial models and plant traits for conservation and restoration

Authors


Editors' award for 2013

At the beginning of each year, Chief Editors of Applied Vegetation Science grant an award to an outstanding paper published in the journal in the previous year. The selection of this paper is partly based on the nominations received from the Associate Editors. The first author of the awarded paper receives books at the total price of £100 from our publishers, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, and is featured on the websites of the journal and the International Association for Vegetation Science (IAVS).

The Editors' Award for 2013 goes to Loïc Pellissier for the paper ‘Spatial predictions of land-use transitions and associated threats to biodiversity: the case of forest regrowth in mountain grasslands’ (Pellissier et al. 2013). This paper is an excellent example of how modern methods of spatial modelling can be used to identify priority areas for conservation. Many temperate grasslands harbour high species richness (Wilson et al. 2012), but they are threatened by cessation of mowing or livestock grazing and subsequent forest regrowth. Pellissier et al. (2013) used six modelling techniques to develop a predictive model of forest regrowth on former grasslands based on environmental and socio-economic variables, and site accessibility for humans. They calibrated the model using land-use transition data for the period 1979–1992 and evaluated it using analogous data for the period 1992–2004. For the same area, they modelled plant species richness following the approach used in their previous study (Dubuis et al. 2011), and multiplied the probabilities of land-use change by the modelled values of species richness at each site. In such a way they identified the areas where plant species diversity is at highest risk. Their approach differs from most other studies in that it is predictive rather than explanatory and it relies on a robust projection based on ensemble forecasting rather than on a single statistical method. Application of this approach in nature management would greatly improve the accuracy of identification of the most threatened areas that require priority introduction of conservation measures.

Another two excellent papers were also nominated for the Editor's Award. Fischer et al. (2013) integrated two topics that are currently prominent in Applied Vegetation Science and Journal of Vegetation Science: ecological restoration (Hölzel et al. 2012) and the role of plant traits in community assembly (Mason & de Bello 2013). They sowed native plant species in a restoration experiment in an urban area and compared traits of successful and failed species after 3 yrs. This study demonstrated that target species introduced in restoration projects tend to be successful if their traits and competitive ability are similar to those of the resident species. This result is not only very important for ecological restoration but also contributes to the theory of community assembly, thus bridging the gap between theoretical and applied ecology (Kühn 2013).

Rebele (2013) focused on spontaneous succession of vegetation on initially bare soil in the urban environment. It is often assumed that succession is faster on nutrient-rich sites (Pickett et al. 2009), but there is also contrasting evidence, especially from long-term studies (Smit & Olff 1998; Bornkamm 2007; Wright & Fridley 2010). Rebele (2013) studied succession in experimental plots with different levels of soil nutrients over a period of 18 yrs. He clearly showed that the establishment of woody plants was slowest on the most nutrient-rich sites, where perennial herbs grew vigorously in the first years and acted as inhibitors for tree and shrub seedlings and saplings. This study provides convincing evidence that due to biotic interactions, the establishment of vegetation dominated by woody species can be much faster on poor sandy substrate than on nutrient-rich soil in secondary succession.

Special features

The Vegetation Survey section has become a regular part of Applied Vegetation Science since the publication of the first Special Feature on this topic in 2011 (Chytrý et al. 2011). In 2013 we started another Special Feature on vegetation survey, this time with a narrower focus on European grasslands. Classification of grasslands has been a frequent research subject in Europe for more than 100 yrs, but existing classification schemes still contain many gaps, inconsistencies and differences among countries. Recently we are witnessing a renewed interest in grassland diversity, partly stimulated by the activities of the European Dry Grassland Group of IAVS (Galvánek et al. 2012; Becker et al. 2013; Habel et al. 2013). Compared to the past, grassland research is becoming more international and different research groups are merging their databases for large-scale, supranational diversity analyses. To stimulate international standardization of grassland vegetation classification, which is much needed for European nature conservation planning, Applied Vegetation Science, in cooperation with two IAVS Working Groups, European Dry Grassland Group and European Vegetation Survey, called for papers on large-scale classification of European grasslands (Dengler et al. 2013). These papers will be assembled in a Virtual Special Feature, with individual papers published separately in the Vegetation Survey section of the journal once they are accepted, and will feature together on the journal's website, complemented with a summarizing paper. The first published paper (Eliáš et al. 2013) foreshadows the focus of the whole Special Feature on international standardization of grassland vegetation classification across large parts of Europe, including the regions that have been poorly explored so far.

In 2012 Applied Vegetation Science published a Special Feature on Ecological Restoration, based on the presentations at the 7th European Conference on Ecological Restoration held in Avignon, France, in 2010 (Hölzel et al. 2012). This Special Feature was very positively received by our readers, and the Chief Editors were therefore happy to accept an offer of another conference-based Special Feature from the organizers of the 8th European Conference on Ecological Restoration, held in České Budějovice, Czech Republic, on 9–14 September 2012. Publication of this Special Feature, this time focused on vegetation dynamics in ecological restoration, will be one of the major events in the journal in 2014.

Commentaries

Readers of Applied Vegetation Science and Journal of Vegetation Science have noticed that in 2013 we started to publish a new type of paper: Commentaries. These are short papers, typically of two pages, which provide a broader perspective or additional ideas on one or two selected papers published in the same issue (de Bello & Mudrák 2013; Kühn 2013; Norton & Forbes 2013; Wilson 2013). By courtesy of our publisher, Wiley, both Commentaries and respective commented papers are made freely accessible on the journal website. Great interest in Commentaries is evident from the fact that they are among the most frequently downloaded papers published in the journal.

Scientometry

Impact and prestige of scientific journals is nowadays usually evaluated using simple quantitative measures such as the Impact Factor, published by Thomson Reuters on the ISI Web of Knowledge. The Impact Factor and similar indices partly reflect journal quality, partly its accessibility to the broad scientific community and other factors. Since its move to Wiley in 2009, Applied Vegetation Science has become accessible to many more researchers, and the number of subscriptions, fulltext article downloads, citations of papers published in the journal and also its Impact Factor have been steadily increasing. In 2012 the Impact Factor of Applied Vegetation Science was 2.263, for the first time exceeding the value of two. We editors will do our best to continue in this positive trend, not only by increasing journal visibility, but especially by striving to enhance the quality of the published papers.

Editorial news

At the Council meeting of the International Association for Vegetation Science held in Tartu on 27 June 2013, Bastow Wilson resigned from the position of Chief Editor and the Chair of the Editors of Applied Vegetation Science and Journal of Vegetation Science. Although both the IAVS journals have four Chief Editors, Bastow was the key person, intellectual leader and every-day manager since the retirement of the journals' founder, Eddy van der Maarel, in 1998. Bastow became Chief Editor in 1999 and the Chair of the Editors in 2000. We, the Chief Editors who had the opportunity to work with him, greatly valued his personal commitment and tireless hard work for the success of both journals, huge scientific experience from which we could learn a lot, and last but not least his very specific British sense of humour. Someone might think of editorial work as being a boring job, but with Bastow it was great fun. We want to express our thanks to Bastow for very efficient and pleasant cooperation and for all the positive input he has left behind him in the current shape of both journals. No doubt it was the right decision of the IAVS Council to award Bastow an IAVS Honorary Membership during the 56th Symposium in Tartu in June 2013.

After Bastow's retirement as Chief Editor, Meelis Pärtel became the new Chair of the Editors and Valério Pillar, previously an Associate Editor of Journal of Vegetation Science, was appointed by the IAVS Council as a new Chief Editor for both journals, with main responsibility for Journal of Vegetation Science. Nevertheless, Bastow Wilson remains with both journals as a Consultant Editor, helping the current Chief Editors and the IAVS Governing Board especially with strategic decision-making. At the same time, he kindly agreed to act as a Co-ordinating Editor for Commentaries.

Forthcoming IAVS symposium

The 57th Symposium of IAVS will be held in Perth, Australia, on 1–5 September 2014, organized by our Associate Editor Ladislav Mucina and his colleagues at the University of Western Australia. We are looking forward to meet many readers and authors of Applied Vegetation Science at this symposium.

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