Other Levels of Classification Synusial approaches

While phytosociological classifications are usually based on all plant species occurring in vegetation stands, for some purposes sampling may be restricted to certain taxonomic, functional, or structural parts of these. Abstract types of such partial communities are called synusiae (singular: synusia) in order to differentiate them from normal community types (syntaxa) (Table 7). Synusiae include plant assemblages of horizontally differentiated microhabitats within larger vegetation stands, of vertical vegetation layers, and of seasonally separated phenological phases. Epiphytic

Table 7 Levels of classification from synusial phytosociology to sigmasociology


recorded in

Concrete object


Abstract type

Partial vegetation stand



(e.g., layer)

Vegetation stand




Vegetation stand




Vegetation mosaic (tesela)

Syntaxa or coenotaxa


Landscape mosaic (catena)



cryptogams inhabiting tree bark are a typical example of a synusia, which is recorded in small plots with cover projection estimated perpendicular to the substrate surface. Synusiae should be placed in a separate hierarchical system with ranks of their own and the union as its basic unit. However, many studies of partial communities place their units in the system of syntaxa, leading to the ambiguous situation that the same name can refer to both a synusia and a syntaxon.

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