NATURE WORLDWIDE: ECOSYSTEMS

WORLD INSTITUTE FOR CONSERVATION & ENVIRONMENT, WICE

Home Up Species-area relationship Edge effects Minimum area Minimum water body Classification systems Ecoregions Biomes

Terrestrial classifiers
Aquatic classifiers

SHOP ON-LINE & CONSERVE NATURE
DON'T CLICK HERE 

Check out our favorite jungle

LEARN ABOUT RANGERS

SITE MAP
METHODOLOGY
NATURE PICTURES
NATURE LINKS
FORUM
DOCUMENTATION
 FREE SOFTWARE ! 
WORLD REGIONS
NORTH AMERICA
CENTRAL AMERICA
SOUTH AMERICA
WEST AFRICA
EUROPE
EAST AFRICA
WESTERN ASIA
SOUTH-EAST ASIA
NORTHERN ASIA
ISLANDS & POLES
WHY BIRDS
MAMMALS
ECOSYSTEMS
CORAL REEFS
NATIONAL PARKS
MONITORING NATURE
GIS FOR EVERYONE
DOWNLOAD ILWIS FREE !
 
WICE
We are on Twitter
We are ON LinkedIn 
We are on Myspace
We are ON Hi5 
We are on Facebook

 

ECOSYSTEM CLASSIFICATION SYSTEMS

Before reading this page, we recommend you read the ecosystem concept first.

Several physiognomic-ecological are available: 

  1. UNESCO system: International classification and mapping of vegetation, 1973, and renamed "Physiognomic-Ecological Classification of Plant Formations of the Earth", by Mueller Dombois and Ellenberg, 1974; Its best known derivatives:

  2. FAO/UNEP developed Land Cover Classification System, LCCS; and 

  3. United States Vegetation Committee developed US National Vegetation Classification, USNVC.

Several aquatic ecosystem classification systems are available and an effort is being made by the USGS to design a complete ecosystem classification system that covers both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. In absence of an integrated model, we have developed the aquatic classifiers or modifiers that can be distinguished from satellite images and ancillary data.

The UNESCO classification system related classification variants all allow fairly to rather detailed (depending on the use of floristic elements) classification of biounits with a reasonable degree of geographical consistency. From the previous analysis of modifiers, it may be clear that these classification systems not only provide information that leads to information about the vegetation, but about conditions that determine the suitability of that location to representatives of any taxon, particularly when complemented with additional ecological classifiers when appropriate. From the previous consideration, it may be deducted that different recombinations of modifiers most likely lead to partial different assemblages of species. Particularly by incorporating an aquatic “formation”, sets or assemblages of ecosystems and species has been added that were not considered in the original design of the UNESCO classification system, based on specific aquatic classifiers. Sometimes, specific zoological information can and needs to be mapped, such as the distribution of coral reefs and faunal congregation sites (e.g. breeding, rutting and roosting sites). Such detail on faunistic elements must be superimposed on vegetation and/or substrate modifiers in the same way as floristic elements. 

The UNESCO classification system related classification variants all allow fairly to rather detailed (depending on the use of floristic elements) classification of biounits with a reasonable degree of geographical consistency. Download the UNESCO classification system manual.

Systematically, the LCCS is more consistent and modern system and we basically would recommend to use this system outside of the USA, where the USNVC classification system had become the standard. It is very convenient because it has a digital classes selection programme. From the previous analysis of modifiers, it may be clear that these classification systems not only provide information that leads to information about the vegetation, but about conditions that determine the suitability of that location to representatives of any taxon, particularly when complemented with additional ecological characteristics when appropriate. From the previous consideration, it may be deducted that different recombinations of modifiers most likely lead to partial different assemblages of species. Particularly by incorporating an aquatic “formation”, sets or assemblages of ecosystems and species has been added that were not considered in the original design of the UNESCO classification system.  

The developers of the LCCS (di Gregorio & Jansen 2000) object that most existing systems (both for vegetation cover and specific features like agriculture) are unable to define the whole range of possible land cover classes. First of all, this is incorrect. The UNESCO system and its derivatives can very well classify any crop. A potato crop would be a seasonal forbes prairy and a ricefield can be classified as a poorly drained meadow or grassland. But even if true, this does not necessarily pose insurmountable drawbacks, as different complementary thematic classification systems may be applied to the same study area. Even the LCCS lives by that philosophy, as it states that for bare soil, the soil type can be added according to the FAO/UNESCO Revised Soil Legend. What is important however, is that care must be taken, to not lose the primary focus of a mapping project. By incorporating too many classifiers, the complexity of the data may clutter the information, while printed versions of maps may become illegible. A national thematic ecosystem map needs to distinguish at least some thirty main classes, often more. If such map would also includes different levels of intervention of those classes, the number may more than double. Adding detailed agricultural information to such a map would unduly raise the complexity for the user. Additionally, it is difficult enough to obtain adequate funding for the field of focus of the map, and – depending on the country – it may not be wise to spend limited resources on non-target themes. Thirdly, maps almost always require some level of abstraction, and adding agricultural information to an ecosystems map risks applying a wrong category to some kind of field specifically known to a user. Such insignificant error in the context of the main theme may be of great significance to that user and an overall disqualification of the map may result from classification errors in what would be a secondary level of information in the context of the map in question.

The USNVC has been commonly used in the USA, in spite of the fact that to our knowledge, there is no official manual, but I found a document that approaches it: FGDS and ESA Guiding Principles for Vegetation Classification. It is an annex to another document, but I could not find which. There is a rather elaborate document as a technical background paper by Grossman et al (1998), Terrestrial Vegetations of the United States, The National Vegetation Classification System Development, Status and Applications, Volume 1. This document does not however provide the system itself. I can't find a digital copy of Volume 2, but from what I remember, it does not provide a nice systematic approach to the system as aforementioned document. 

The applications if the USNVC are rather limited to NatureServe, a technical spin-off of the developer of the system, the Nature Conservancy. The system is rather focused on the USA, but in principle it could be used worldwide. The LCCS however is considerably more worldwide oriented and it has the very systematic classification tool. NatureServe has made a continent-wide ecosystems map for South America, but that is based on certain data sets it could acquire free of charge and it is not consistent with this system, or anything else. Some of those data (geological data) would have very little and inconsistent bearing on ecosystems characteristics from the perspective of distinguishing between distinct species assemblages. So, my feelings would be to not use either the USNVC nor this ecosystems map for South America.  

You can download the UNESCO Classification System, the LCCS and the USNVC from: http://www.gis4biologists.info/important_gis_tools.htm 

The integrated approach is in the IUCN task force on Protected Areas System Composition and Monitoring (Vreugdenhil et al 2003)

Keywords: ecosystems, classification, UNESCO, LCCS, USNVC, system

This page  is part of our web-book on Biodiversity Conservation. For organized reading go to our on-line Table of Content, or download our book in pdf format.

 

NATURE WORLDWIDE is the official website of the World Institute for Conservation and Environment, WICE. It is an integrated network of web sites dealing with different topics on nature, nature conservation and natural resources management. Read here why we created Nature Worldwide. Our Methodology explains how we produced our information. Our Site Map helps you find your way in the website. We made this website out of passion for conservation. We spent our own salaries and free time to gather the information and publish it on these websites, in total valuing hundreds of thousands of dollars of professional time. Nobody pays us to do this. We simply want to contribute to conservation. If you appreciate our work, PLEASE visit our site Adopt A Ranger and see how you can make a difference for conservation most effectively: By paying one day of the salary of a ranger, you will make a difference in conserving the lives of thousands of birds, other critters and entire forests. Check our sitemap. Enjoy!

NATURE DU MONDE est le site Web officiel du World Institute for Conservation and Environment, WICE, C'est une collection intégrée de sites web qui traitent avec des sujets différents sur nature, conservation de la nature et gestion des ressources naturelles. Lisez ici pourquoi nous avons créé Nature de Monde. Notre Methodologie explique comme nous avons produit nos renseignements. Notre Site Map vous aide trouver votre entrée dans le site web. Beaucoup de plaisir!

NATURALEZA DEL MUNDO es la página Web oficial del World Institute for Conservation and Environment, WICE, Es una red de páginas Web tratando de temas diferentes relacionados a la naturaleza, la conservación el manejo de recursos naturales, parques nacionales y áreas protegidas. Lea aqui porqué hicimos Naturaleza del Mundo. Nuestra Methodología explica como produjimos la información. Nuestro Mapa del sitio le ayuda encontrar su información en nuestra página web. Disfrute! 

NATUREZA DO MUNDO é o Web site oficial do World Institute for Conservation and Environment, WICE, Es uma red de páginas Web tratando de temas diferentes relacionados à natureza, la conservação el manejo de recursos naturaleiss, parques nacionais y áreas protegidas. Lea aqui porqué creamos Natureza do Mundo. Nossa Methodología explica como produjimos a informação. Nosso Mapa do sitio le ayuda encontrar sua informação no web site. Desfrute!

NATUR DER GANZEN WELT ist, die offiziellen Website der World Institute for Conservation and Environment, WICE. Es ist ein einheitliches Netzwerk von Web Sites, über Themen wie Natur, Natur-Schutz und natürlichem Ressourcen Quellen Hege. Lesen Sie hier warum wir Natur der ganzen Welt gemacht haben. Unsere Verfahrensweise erklärt, wie wir unsere Informationen produziert würde. Unsere Site Map  hilft Ihnen Ihren Weg im Website zu finden. Viel Spaß!

NATUUR UIT ALLE STREKEN is, de officiële Website van het World Institute for Conservation and Environment, WICE. Het is een geïntegreerd Netwerk van websites, over Natuur, Natuurbescherming en het beheer van natuurlijke hulpbronnen. Lesen Sie hier warum wir Natuur uit alle Streken gemacht haben. Onze pagina Methode legt uit, hoe we onze informatie vergaarden. Onze Site Map helpt u op weg door onze website. 

WICE is a worldwide non-government non-profit organization that contributes to the conservation of nature. While it works on a many issues related to the conservation of nature and the protection of the environment, it is particularly committed to the conservation of national parks and other protected areas.

WICE - USA office:                            

1639 Steamboat Run Road

Shepherdstown, WV25443, USA

 

Please read the disclaimer

 --   --