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Keywords:

  • Data mining;
  • Ecoinformatics;
  • Eutrophication;
  • Functional trait;
  • Indicator value;
  • Information system;
  • Plant community;
  • SynBioSys Europe;
  • Turboveg;
  • Vegetation database

Abstract

The rapid developments in computer techniques and the availability of large datasets open new perspectives for vegetation analysis aiming at better understanding of the ecology and functioning of ecosystems and underlying mechanisms. Information systems prove to be helpful tools in this new field. Such information systems may integrate different biological levels, viz. species, community and landscape. They incorporate a GIS platform for the visualization of the various layers of information, enabling the analysis of patterns and processes which relate the individual levels. An example of a newly developed information system is SynBioSys Europe, an initiative of the European Vegetation Survey (EVS). For the individual levels of the system, specific sources are available, notably national and regional Turboveg databases for the community level and data from the recently published European Map of Natural Vegetation for the landscape level. The structure of the system and its underlying databases allow user-defined queries. With regard to its application, such information systems may play a vital role in European nature planning, such as the implementation the EU-program Natura 2000. To illustrate the scope and perspectives of the program, some examples from The Netherlands are presented. They are dealing with long-term changes in grassland ecosystems, including shifts in distribution, floristic composition, and ecological indicator values.