Vegetation change: A reunifying concept in plant ecology

Mark A. Davis, Jan Pergl, Anne Marie Truscott, Johannes Kollmann, Jan P. Bakker, Roser Domenech, Karel Prach, Anne Hélène Prieur-Richard, Roos M. Veeneklaas, Petr Pyšek, Roger Del Moral, Richard J. Hobbs, Scott L. Collins, Steward T.A. Pickett, Peter B. Reich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Specialization can become detrimental to a discipline if it fosters intellectual isolation. A bibliographic analysis of several research areas in plant ecology (invasion biology, succession ecology, gap/patch dynamics, and global change effects on plants) revealed that plant ecologists do not regularly make use of the findings and insights of very similar studies being conducted in other research subdisciplines, nor do they try to make their findings and insights easily accessible to researchers in other areas. Invasion papers were least likely to be cross-linked (6%) with other fields, whereas gap/patch dynamics papers were most likely to be cross-linked (15%). This tendency toward intellectual isolation may be impeding efforts to achieve more powerful generalizations in ecology by reducing the number of potentially productive exchanges among researchers. In this paper, we illustrate this problem using the example of several speciality areas that study vegetation change. We argue that, rather than characterizing studies of vegetation change on the basis of what distinguishes them from one another, plant ecologists would benefit from concentrating on what such studies have in common. As an example, we propose that several speciality areas of plant ecology could be reunified under the term ecology of vegetation change. Individual researchers, journals, and ecological societies all can take specific steps to increase the useful exchange of ideas and information among research areas. Promoting rapid and more effective communication among diverse researchers may reduce the proliferation of narrow theories, concepts, and terminologies associated with particular research areas. In this way, we can expedite our understanding of the ecological mechanisms and consequences associated with plant communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-76
Number of pages8
JournalPerspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 31 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Our collaboration on this paper was made possible by the European Science Foundation, through funding to an international workshop ‘Plant invasions and vegetation succession: closing the gap’ held in November 2003 in České Budějovice, Czech Republic. This workshop was part of the implementation strategy of the International Programme of Biodiversity Science, DIVERSITAS. J.P., K.P. & P.P. were supported by Grant No. 206/02/0617 from Grant Agency of the Czech Republic and by Grant No. AV0Z6005908 from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. M.D. received support from the US National Science Foundation, DEB-0208125.


  • Climate change
  • Gap dynamics
  • Invasion ecology
  • Patch dynamics
  • Succession
  • Vegetation change


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