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Second edition of „Data Analysis in Vegetation Ecology“

Cover page "Data Analysis in Vegetation Ecology"
Front cover of "Data Analysis in Vegetation Ecology"
Back page
Rear cover: Click on the image to read the text

Is the plant cover of the earth determined by environmental factors, by evolutionary processes or by human influence? Using various real-life examples the author explains how this question is answered by data analysis and subsequent interpretation. He now offers insight into the software-environment R, praised by many scientists, feared by others. The book published by Wiley-Blackwell is now available in its second edition.

“New” compared to the first edition is the inclusion of various novel methods. Even more obvious, however, is the implementation of comprehensive instructions on how to reproduce the examples using the proper computer. “Old” is the basic objective of vegetation ecology, the question, in how far the plant cover of the globe is determined by environmental factors, evolutionary processes or human influence. These are problems playing a central role in many environmental research projects.

In the first half of the twentieth century vegetation ecology was widely based on personal experience. But then pioneers became aware that solutions could be based on the recently invented multivariate analysis. The author Otto Wildi, researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, supported these achievements long time ago, most of all by providing corresponding computer software.

The second edition of “Data Analysis in Vegetation Ecology” presents the recent state of software in this field of science. The book includes detailed instructions on how to find solutions using the “R” environment. R is a modern software- and programming environment for natural sciences, presently experiencing an unprecedented boost. Using R, however, has downsides as well, and in the introduction the author expresses his warnings: „It is well known that many scientists using R love it, those who avoid it, fear it.“ It is an objective of the author to get rid of fear.

Just as the first edition, the present release is a basic introduction into vegetation ecology. In this context vegetation is perceived as a natural phenomenon, according to the definition devised by van der Maarel (2005): ‘Vegetation can be loosely defined as a system of largely spontaneously growing plants. What humans grow in gardens and fields is hence excluded.’ The focus of the book is on interactions, those among vegetation, environment, space and time. It ranges from the detection of vegetation patterns towards vegetation modeling, including technical basics to develop simple scenarios. All this is done with the help of R.

The author does not promise yet another introduction into R. But the book suggests that this could be the case. Newcomers in R are encouraged to follow the instructions, although some elementary basics in vegetation ecology may be required. The book comes with its own R-package, “dave”, an acronym of the book title. This is public and it can be downloaded from CRAN