Community Ecology

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 81–91 | Cite as

Objectifying thematic, spatial and temporal aspects of vegetation mapping for monitoring

  • M. E. SandersEmail author
  • G. M. Dirkse
  • P. A. Slim


Ad hoc decisions during fieldwork reduce the accuracy and reliability of vegetation maps. A method is proposed to objectify vegetation (thematic aspects) mapping (spatial aspects) for monitoring (temporal aspects). The most accurate and reliable description of the vegetation is a list of all plant species found within a plot. Therefore, the proposed method is an interpolation of a spatially representative sample of permanent plots combined with aerial photo interpretation. The method is objective because surveyors do not have to make decisions during fieldwork based on their personal judgement. Moreover, it is flexible, because the classification and interpolation methods can be adapted to specific views or needs depending on the aim of a study.

The method was applied to an area in the north of the Netherlands in 1998. A sampling design with a density of 1 plot/ha was used, and interpolated with a perpendicular bisector. In 2002, the number of plots/ha was doubled. The influence of sample density on the mapping results was studied because it is an important decision to be made before fieldwork. Two plots/ha seem to be sufficient in order to obtain reliable information on patterns of plant species composition and vegetation types of the area, and their change over time. However, in patches where vegetation varies on a very small spatial scale this plot density was insufficient.


Accuracy Objectivity Permanent plots Plant species Sampling design Sequential maps Vegetation mapping 



Differential Global Positioning System


Geographical Information System


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© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest 2004

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alterra, Green World ResearchWageningen University and Research CentreWageningenThe Netherlands

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