Ecotones in vegetation ecology: Methodologies and definitions revisited

  • Hufkens K
  • Scheunders P
  • Ceulemans R
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In this review paper, we highlight some of the trends and issues that have dominated ecotone research over the decade of 19962006. The terms and definitions of ecotone research in vegetation ecology are reviewed. We summarize the most important techniques and highlight the discrepancies between the definitions and their scientific application in vegetation ecology. We see a need for semantic uniformity with regard to the term and the definition of the ecotone, as the variable and the non-exclusive use of terms and definitions can be a source of confusion when interpreting and comparing different studies. To avoid further confusion, a unique definition of the term ecotone should be agreed upon, based upon a set of general characteristics.We therefore adapted and extended the definition from Holland et al. (Ecotones: the role of landscape boundaries in the management and restoration of changing environments, 1991) to A multi-dimensional environmentally sto- chastic interaction zone between ecological systems with characteristics defined in space and time, and by the strength of the interaction. We also advocate that (1) a shift in focus from one-dimensional to two-dimensional techniques in ecotone characterization is desirable and (2) more research into novel techniques, including multi- dimensional data and time series, is needed in view of local and global ecotone changes.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Ecological boundary
  • Edge detection
  • Gradient analysis
  • Spatial pattern
  • Vegetation analysis

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