• Climate change;
  • Coastal vegetation;
  • Plant functional type;
  • Vegetation classification

Abstract. Due to the complexity of coastal barrier vegetation, it is useful to apply a functional-type approach to assess the response of barrier island vegetation to climate change. In this paper, a simple clustering analysis is applied to a group of 19 plant associations, based on six plant attributes and six environmental constraints. This analysis results in the suggestion that the main division of the vegetation types at Virginia Coast Reserve is between herbaceous and woody types, which differs from the existing classification which recognizes three groups: xeric-mesic herbaceous, woody and hydric-halophytic herbaceous. Considerations about grouping plant functional types are also addressed in this paper. At a global scale, inclusion of barrier plant functional types may not be so important for the climate-change response of vegetation, but it may be necessary to consider these important systems for spatially explicit modelling of landscape responses.