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

Elements

recorded in

Concrete object

releves

Abstract type

Partial vegetation stand

Species

Synusia

(e.g., layer)

Vegetation stand

Species

Syntaxon

(phytocoenosis)

Vegetation stand

Synusiae

Coenotaxon

(phytocoenosis)

Vegetation mosaic (tesela)

Syntaxa or coenotaxa

Sigmataxon

Landscape mosaic (catena)

Sigmataxa

Geosigmataxon

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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