2017 Annual Symposium Program

Palermo, June 20-24, 2017


Vegetation patterns in natural and cultural landscapes

The 60th annual symposium of the International Association for Vegetation Science (IAVS) will take place in Sicily. Over the centuries, this island has attracted many human cultures  and civilizations, leaving behind a unique blend of natural and cultural heritages all over the island. For this reason, any study linking biological and cultural diversity will be highly welcome at the 60th IAVS annual symposium.

The first Italian law that placed landscapes and historical buildings under public control was implemented in 1922. At the time this was a significant achievement, but "landscape" emphasized essentially historical and aesthetic features, with no explicit reference to the natural components of landscapes and their ecological value.

Today, all over the world, many protection policies and initiatives for landscape conservation are still biased by  a "sectorial specialization", and lack of clarity of the respective roles of ecologists, planners and managers of landscapes. The priority granted to historical and aesthetic values often de-emphasizes the complex relationship between natural vegetation, ecosystem dynamics and agricultural and urban assets.

Vegetation science can inform the sustainable management of landscapes that preserve natural ecosystems and their associated services. Moving towards a shared and integrated strategy for sustainability requires a substantial revision of the general objectives of growth and development: conservation, innovation and new ideas on human habitats should jointly proceed, recognizing the natural vegetation as a readily available monitoring target. At the same time, some reflection would be necessary also for the role of vegetation science and vegetation scientists in promoting ideas of sustainability.
During the IAVS symposium 2017, we will explore and discuss the applications of vegetation science to a wide array of landscapes and land-use patterns, with specific thematic sessions on:
Land-use patterns and vegetation in cultural landscapes
Plant species and vegetation are the best biological descriptors of landscapes. Approaches that integrate biological and cultural perspectives are probably best suited to understand and manage most of the biodiversity persisting in landscapes characterized by a long history of human influence.
Green infrastructures and vegetation science
Vegetation science can help in designing, establishing, managing and monitoring green infrastructures, from transnational ecological networks up to urban green roofs, seen here as stepping stones for biodiversity and metacommunity dynamics in urban districts.
Functional diversity along environmental gradients
Land uses and their associated disturbances influence species richness, functional diversity and ecosystem processes in a wide array of different ecosystems. However, there has been little testing of how field-based functional diversity measures vary across environmental gradients of disturbance and productivity.
Vegetation, traits and ecosystem services valuation
Scientific interest in valuing what was not yet named “ecosystem services” emerged in the late 1960’s both as a concern for ecologists and as a theoretical challenge for economists. Since that time, the definition of meaningful and operational indicators to valuate ecosystems services became a challenging topic. Maybe vegetation traits and/or plant functional types could also offer practical operating tools...
Vegetation dynamics and human-induced successions
Human activities can have a strong impact on the vegetation and the way it changes. These changes are known as human-induced successions, which are often unexpected, unforeseen, unconsidered but, sometimes, seriously detrimental to biodiversity and to the benefits that people derive from ecosystems.
Grasslands, land uses and environmental changes
Grasslands include a wide range of ecosystem types, from humid prairies to arid steppes, up to the savanna biome. Their temporal stability is not ensured by a strong demographic inertia, particularly in annual-rich communities. So, grasslands are very responsive ecosystems and the question is: how can we manage grassland biodiversity in the transition to new scenarios?
Invasive species: past, present and future trends
Non-native plant species that become invasive are a multi-faceted phenomenon of global change. The influence of local vegetation patterns, their configuration/fragmentation, historical legacy of land-use changes on biological invasions still need to be better understood.
Habitat monitoring and conservation assessment
Habitat monitoring is important for assessing the threat and conservation status of species and protected areas. This can be done at global and regional scales, with the vegetation as a key component of habitat-based indicators.
Vegetation for conservation planning
Conservation planning is a major research area to ensure optimised strategies in the long term preservation of biodiversity. Vegetation is the major structural and functional component of most terrestrial ecosystems and also has important interactions with abiotic ecosystem functions, such as hydrological cycle. Therefore, the role of vegetation in conservation planning is dual, because it represent a target of conservation management in terms of species and habitat but also because its role of proxy or driver of other conservation targets (e.g., animals). Consequently, the role of vegetation science in conservation planning is fundamental. This session is devoted to discuss the present and future trends in using vegetation data for conservation planning, trying to establish new ideas and perspectives for vegetation science.
Vegetation classification, vegetation management and restoration ecology
The aim of every classification is to move from a continuous system to a discrete system. It is a way to simplify a complex reality by creating entities (vegetation types), that are crucial for map-making, management and knowledge exchange, restoration ecology and legal purposes. Many possible classifications exist, according to the context and aims. Moreover, conservation is scale-dependent, from geographic and time perspectives. Therefore the choice of the right vegetation classification at the right scale is a key issue.
Plant diversity patterns across biomes, habitats and communities
Understanding of the factors driving plant diversity patterns are of great importance not only for scientific community but also for conservation. Do we have enough high-quality data to reveal the general biodiversity patterns and how they change in space and time?
Vegetation diversity on islands
Islands represent model ecosystem for investigating evolutionary, biogeographical and also ecological processes. Although representing a minor proportion of the planet area, islands host a significant amount of biodiversity. Plant communities growing on islands presents important features, such as the presence of endemic species, special gradients of diversity and peculiar functional characters. However the island biota have experienced major transformation because of anthropogenic pressure. The study of plant community ecology and its long dynamic on islands is therefore a major scientific issue in the near future, also in the light of understanding how the island vegetation diversity can be preserved on the long term. This session will make an up-to-date synthesis on the current trends in research on island vegetation.
Ecological informatics and facilitating vegetation syntheses
The emerging availability of large quantities of species co-occurrence, site attribute, and taxon attribute data is transforming the study of ecological communities. At the same time large data sets of heterogeneous origin pose increasing challenges, both technical and scientific.  Advances are rapidly being made in data exchange, overcoming barriers to integrating vegetation plot data (e.g. validating and standardising geo-coordinates and plant names), developing remedies to overcome bias and uncertainty in existing data, and in the compilation of global and supranational vegetation plot databases.  How best to motivate data sharing continues to be an important topic.  This session is also open to appropriate software demonstrations.
Macroecological analysis and modelling of vegetation patterns
Spatial modelling is often used to relate sparse biological survey data to remotely derived environmental predictors. Outputs from vegetation modelling include predictive mapping of community types (locations with similar species composition), functional units (groups of species with similar functions), gradients of compositional variation and various macro-ecological properties.


Long-term changes of fluvial landscapes: evolutionary trajectories of vegetation patterns
Convened by Maria Rosário Fernandes & Francisca C. Aguiar
Riparian and aquatic vegetation patches are physical ecosystem engineers in fluvial landforms and associated habitats that strongly react to natural and human pressures. Main causes of changes are related with longstanding effects of flow regulation, deforestation, urban and agricultural land use in floodplains. Common ecological responses to continuous disturbance include reduction of connectivity and diversity of woody vegetation, homogenization of riverine areas, loss of pioneers phases, encroachment, among others. Also, the effects of a drier/warmer and more unpredictable climate change may also contribute to shifts in species composition, such as potential increases in alien species and succession stages towards more dominant mature-forest and drought-tolerant stages.
This special session aims to gather Information from studies using temporal analyses addressing the response of fluvial vegetation patterns to distinct natural or human-induced alterations.Diverse scales and distinct methodologies will be tackled, from the catchment-to-reach level, to the field-to-image analysis, bringing together diverse scientific approaches, such as the planform analysis in historical maps, patch dynamics development in process-based models and cause-effect relations in empirical analyses.

Rethinking biomes – towards a consistent high-level classification of global vegetation
Convened by Jürgen Dengler, John Hunter & Scott Franklin
Studies on global vegetation and biodiversity patterns as well as global change effects on vegetation and ecosystem service provision need a well-defined, meaningful set of main types of climax vegetation. Various such global systems of biomes, zonobiomes or ecozones have been proposed by geobotanists during the past century, based on expert knowledge and coarse in resolution. More recently biome systems with finer resolution have been developed for countries or continents, however, typically not consistent with any of the previous global systems. In this session we thus welcome presentation of biome systems and their underlying methodology, conceptual contributions that aim at defining what a biome is and finally methodological proposals how a better world biome map could be derived on present-day GIS databases of climate and other factors, remote sensing products and large vegetation-plot databases.
Remote Sensing for Vegetation Science
Convened by Ducco Rocchini & Sebastian Schmidtlein
Whatever the vegetation property being investigated, from the distribution of a certain species or group of species, traits and functional types to the variability in space and time, field sampling inevitably presents a number of issues, such as the development of a robust sampling design, the definition of the statistical population being sampled, and the time and cost of performing sampling in the field. This is particularly true when considering spatially complex ecosystems. It is practically impossible to gather exhaustive information about the geometry of environmental and species variation over space at a certain time. However, remote sensing is a powerful tool for obtaining continuous information about these targets, since it guarantees whole spatial coverage in a short period of time. The aim of this session is to discuss the potential of remote sensing for vegetation science, especially under the light of plant species modelling and the prediction of biodiversity changes in space and time.
Theory-based habitat conservation and restoration
Convened by Péter Török & Aveliina Helm
The involvement of ecological theory in habitat conservation and restoration has significantly increased in the past decade. However, despite the fact that the field of restoration ecology has grown academically strong, there are still visible gaps between the advancing discipline of theoretical ecology and current approaches of habitat restoration. It is necessary to improve joint thinking by improving the inclusion of recent ecological theories to practical habitat conservation and restoration, as well as by introducing a practical-problem-driven theoretical research. The session aims to (i) improve linkages between theoretical ecology, restoration and conservation strategies; and to (ii) summarise the practical needs of restoration and conservation that need further support from theoretical ecology.
Faces of hidden diversity: Dispersal and regeneration traits in vegetation dynamics
Convened by Orsolya Valkó, Péter Török, Béla Tóthmérész, Alessandra Fidelis & Borja Jiménez- Alfaro
The regeneration niche, seed dispersal in space and time (seed rain and seed banks), germination or dormancy, represent major but often unexplored factors of species assembly and functional diversity. The aim of this special session is to discuss the role of seed traits in vegetation patterns, the dynamic of plant communities and restoration practice. Studies introducing theoretical and practical aspects of trait-based approaches for understanding colonization and establishment of species in natural or semi-natural communities are welcome.
Vegetation patterns in relation to multiscale levels of ecological complexity: from associations to geoseries
Convened by Farid Bensettiti, Frédéric Bioret, Jorge Capelo, Dan Gafta, Franco Pedrotti, Daniel Pablo de la Cruz Sanchez Mata
Vegetation mosaics issuing from the interplay of multiscale succession and zonation processes have been formally described by Continental European phytosociologists ever since the early 70’s. Vegetation mosaics were then defined as the object of Landscape Phytosociology. Within the scope of contemporary Vegetation Science, the subject has developed into a worldwide focus on beyond-community upper complexity levels. Geobotanical concepts corresponding to several types of succession and zonation phenomena, in relation to environmental determinants, to disturbance regimes (both natural and human-induced) and to ecological history have been thoroughly proposed. Fruitful contemporary and future research lines are those addressing the many instances of phytocoenosis, vegetation series and geoseries as reference models for manifold approaches in Vegetation Science. Such conceptual synergies may range from geobotanical typology, as in itself, a dynamic habitat typology almost-readily applicable to Nature management and ecosystem mapping to those envisaging complex approaches: - functional, evolutionary, macroecology – to those envisaging geobotanical typology, as in itself, a dynamic habitat typology almost-readily applicable to Nature management and ecosystem mapping. In this session, we wish to pursue such approach as new ideas are most welcome.

Suggested topics:
      1.         Proposals on geobotanical models: conceptual stability, completeness, and systematics.
      2.         Specific methodological issues of field sampling, numerical treatment and databasing of symphytosociological data.
      3.         Biodiversity measures at different scales in relation to associations, vegetation series and geoseries.
      4.         Functional  classifications of vegetation mosaics based on geobotanical models.
      5.         Vegetation landscape interpretation in several complexity-levels applications and symphytosociological vegetation mapping. Territorial case-studies in Landscape Phytosociology.

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