• Catchment area;
  • Digital elevation model (DEM);
  • Flow routing algorithm;
  • Forest vegetation;
  • Geomorphometry;
  • Soil moisture;
  • Temperate forest;
  • Terrain analysis;
  • Topographic parameters


Questions: How important is the choice of flow routing algorithm with respect to application of topographic wetness index (TWI) in vegetation ecology? Which flow routing algorithms are preferable for application in vegetation ecology?

Location: Forests in three different regions of the Czech Republic.

Methods: We used vegetation data from 521 georeferenced plots, recently sampled in a wide range of forest communities. From a digital elevation model, we calculated 11 variations of TWI for each plot with 11 different flow routing algorithms. We evaluated the performance of differently calculated TWI by (1) Spearman rank correlation with average Ellenberg indicator values for soil moisture, (2) Mantel correlation coefficient between dissimilarities of species composition and dissimilarities of TWI and (3) the amount of variation in species composition explained by canonical correspondence analysis.

Results: The choice of flow routing algorithm had a considerable effect on the performance of TWI. Correlation with Ellenberg indicator values for soil moisture, Mantel correlation coefficient and explained variation doubled when the appropriate algorithm was used. In all regions, multiple flow routing algorithms performed best, while single flow routing algorithms performed worst.

Conclusions: We recommend the multiple flow routing algorithms of Quinn et al. and Freeman for application in vegetation ecology.