Today’s vegetation and woody flora

Lang, Gerhard; Ammann, Brigitta; Schwörer, Christoph; Tinner, Willy (2023). Today’s vegetation and woody flora. In: Lang, Gerhard; Ammann, Brigitta; Behre, Karl-Ernst; Tinner, Willy (eds.) Quaternary Vegetation Dynamics of Europe (pp. 145-149). Bern: Haupt Verlag

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Considered over long time scales, today's vegetation is only the last realization of a dynamic process and not a static concept. On the one hand, knowledge of modern vegetation is essential for our understanding of vegetation history, on the other hand, considering this history allows a deeper understanding of the present vegetation. In Europe this comparison is made difficult because of the human impact on the environment over millennia: what we observe as the modern plant cover is only rarely the end product of a natural vegetation history.
A distinction was often made between ‘modern natural vegetation’ (plant cover without any human impact) and ‘modern potential natural vegetation’ (plant cover including human impact but as it would be after the cessation of this influence). Both are concepts based on soils, climate and biogeography, but they remain constructions with large uncertainties (Tüxen, 1956; Frenzel, 1968; Neuhäusl, 1991; Bohn et al., 2003; Birks, 2019).
For our purpose a map of the modern potential natural vegetation on a small scale will be sufficient showing the ‘zonal vegetation’ that depends on large-scale factors such as temperature and precipitation and that omits the ‘azonal vegetation’ depending on edaphic conditions (for example riparian forests, mires, halophytic habitats). Moreover, the elevational belts of mountain systems cannot be fully shown on this scale. A higher spatial resolution can be found in Ozenda (1979) and Bohn et al. (2003). As an overview we can distinguish five vegetation zones (biomes) in Europe:
• The arctic and alpine zone with treeless dwarf shrub, meadow or tall herb vegetation (A)
• The boreal zone with a dominance of conifers (B)
• The temperate zone with mainly forests of deciduous trees (T)
• The Mediterranean zone with co-dominance (mesomediterranean) or dominance (thermomediterranean) of evergreen broadleaved trees and shrubs (M)
• The Pannonic-Pontic-Anatolian zone with forest steppes, steppes and semi-deserts (P) Most limits are spatially not clearly delimited and this can be expressed in terms such as ‘forest- tundra’ or ‘subarctic’ – belts that can be very broad for example in north-west Russia.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Palaeoecology

UniBE Contributor:

Lang, Gerhard, Ammann, Brigitta, Schwörer, Christoph, Tinner, Willy


500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)




Haupt Verlag




Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

08 Aug 2023 12:03

Last Modified:

04 Sep 2023 14:31




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