, Volume 78, Issue 3, pp 109-124

Trends and problems in the application of classification and ordination methods in plant ecology

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Classification and ordination methods represent the two primary groups of ordering techniques for the analysis of floristic data in plant ecology. Current problems in the use and application of the methods are introduced and through a review of 734 articles across 11 ecological journals from 1960 to 1986, the history and evolution of the methods are displayed, the extent to which different techniques have been applied in the past and up to the present is demonstrated and problems and trends are discussed. A clear and substantial increase in the application of ordination and classification methods over the survey period is shown but with this increased usage, problems have come in terms of choice and evaluation of methods, the emphasis on inductive rather than deductive approaches, possible over-emphasis on methodology and technique rather than ecological application, low levels of use in applied studies and an increased tendency to use complementary and multiple analyses.

All of the problems are related to broader aspects of the present position of vegetation description and analysis within vegetation science in general and in particular the relationship between community ecology and individualistic plant ecology.