Major similarities exist between the role of the continuum concept in plant community ecology and that of niche theory in animal community ecology. Identical techniques have been used to study each idea. This article reviews the adequacy of the current use of the continuum concept and associated ordination techniques and briefly discusses the implications for niche studies. The concept of vegetation as a continuum with a changing species composiÂ tion along environmental gradients arose in antithesis to the community-unit theory which stated that plant communities are natural units of coevolved species populations forming homogeneous, discrete, and recognizable units. Goodall (49) provides a very clear statement of the issues. Two reviews (76, 117) and responses (29) summarize the controversy well. Ecologists now accept the continuum concept and incorporate it into textbooks (e. g. 68, 81,97, 118), though questions remain as to its adequacy (e. g. 68). The need for quantitative procedures for examining vegetation as a conÂ tinuum (27, 114) prompted development of ordination techniques. Goodall (48) introduced the term "ordination" for methods that arrange samples (or species) in relation to "a multidimensional series. " Excellent reviews survey the history of ordination techniques and the theory and application of
Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics – Annual Reviews
Published: Nov 1, 1985
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