A novel application of the ecological field theory to the definition of physiographic and climatic potential areas of forest species
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A new approach to the definition of physiographic and climatic potential areas for forest species, based on the ecological field theory, is outlined in this paper. The proposed formulation is tested on the Spanish juniper (Juniperus thurifera L.), using data from 883 permanent and temporary plots throughout its distribution area in the Spanish autonomous region of Castilla y León. The suitability of the territory for the species is assessed by previously studying its habitat, which in turn is analyzed through physiographic and climatic parameters. This new method is rooted in an additive index that depends on the Mahalanobis distance in the parametric space that evaluates the ecological resemblance between the studied site and each of the points defining the parametric habitat. Thereby the ecological potential of any site within the territory can be established, integrated in a geographical information systems and accordingly charted. The results are compared with those obtained with the methodology traditionally used by Spanish foresters (factorial index), showing that the overall potential area is similar in size but quite different in its distribution.