Aim: Introduction of a novel approach to the classification of vegetation data (species by plot matrices). This approach copes with a large amount of noise, groups irregularly shaped in attribute space and species turnover within groups.
Method: The proposed algorithm (Isopam) is based on the classification of ordination scores from isometric feature mapping. Ordination and classification are repeated in a search for either high overall fidelity of species to groups of sites, or high quantity and quality of indicator species for groups of sites. The classification is performed either as a hierarchical, divisive method or as non-hierarchical partitioning. In divisive clustering, resulting groups are subdivided until a stopping criterion is met. Isopam was tested on 20 real-world data sets. The resulting classifications were compared with solutions from eight widely used clustering algorithms.
Results: When looking at the significance of species fidelities to groups of sites, and at quantity and quality of indicator species, Isopam often achieved high ranks as compared with other algorithms.