Using empirical data (ca. 7500 phytosociological releves), a simple, probabilistic ‘vegetation‐site’ model was developed, to simulate geographical distribution of 71 forest community types, representing the potential natural vegetation (PNV) of Switzerland. The model was interfaced to a geographic information system (GIS) and used to generate a numerical vegetation map, on the basis of digital maps of 12 environmental variables including climatic conditions (temperature and precipitation), topography (elevation, slope, aspect), and soil parameters (soil pH and physical soil parameters). The predicted distribution of forest communities was compared with several vegetation maps, prepared for some subregions of Switzerland by means of traditional field methods. Similarity ranged from 50 to 80 %, depending on the community type, level of vegetational hierarchy and the geographical region. The current resolution and accuracy of the simulated vegetation map allows us to study the vegetational patterns on the level of the entire country or its major geographical and climatic regions. The simulated vegetation map is potentially an important tool in ecological risk assessment studies concerning the possible impacts of climate change on the ecological potential of forest sites and biological diversity of forest communities.
Journal of Vegetation Science – Wiley
Published: Aug 1, 1993
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