Aim: Phytosociological databases often contain unbalanced samples of real vegetation, which should be carefully resampled before any analyses. We propose a new resampling method based on species composition, called heterogeneity-constrained random (HCR) resampling.
Method: Many subsets of the source vegetation database are selected randomly. These subsets are sorted by decreasing mean dissimilarity between pairs of the vegetation plots, and then sorted again by increasing variance of these dissimilarities. Ranks from both sortings are summed for each subset, and the subset with the lowest summed rank is considered as the most representative. The performance of this method was tested using simulated point patterns that represented different levels of aggregation of vegetation plots within a database. The distributions of points in the subsets resulting from different resampling methods, both with and without database stratification, were compared using Ripley's K function. The mean of random selections from an unbiased sample was used as a reference in these comparisons. The efficiency of the method was also demonstrated with real phytosociological data.
Results: Both stratified and HCR resampling yielded selection patterns more similar to the reference than resampling without these tools. Outcomes from the resampling that combined these two methods were the most similar to the reference. The efficiency of the HCR resampling method varied with different levels of aggregation in the database.
Conclusions: This new method is efficient for resampling phytosociological databases. As it only uses information on species occurrences/abundances, it does not require the definition of strata, thereby avoiding the effect of subjective decisions on the selection outcome. Nevertheless, this method can also be applied to stratified databases.