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Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Chair of Plant Ecology - Prof. Dr. Steven Higgins

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Jansen, F; Dengler, J: Plant names in vegetation databases – a neglected source of bias., Journal of Vegetation Science, 21, 1179–1186 (2010), doi:10.1111/j.1654-1103.2010.01209.x
Key words: Biodiversity informatics; Checklist; Plant nomenclature; Potential taxon; R package; Species; Synonym; Taxonomic interpretation; Taxon view; Vegdata
Problem: The increasing availability of large vegeta- tion databases holds great potential in ecological research and biodiversity informatics, However, in- consistent application of plant names compromises the usefulness of these databases. This problem has been acknowledged in recent years, and solutions have been proposed, such as the concept of ‘‘potential taxa’’ or ‘‘taxon views’’. Unfortunately, awareness of the problem remains low among vegetation scientists. Methods: We demonstrate how misleading interpre- tations caused by inconsistent use of plant names might occur through the course of vegetation analy- sis, from releves upward through databases, and then to the final analyses. We discuss how these problems might be minimized. Results: We highlight the importance of taxonomic reference lists for standardizing plant names and outline standards they should fulfill to be useful for vegetation databases. Additionally, we present the R package vegdata, which is designed to solve name- related problems that arise when analysing vegeta- tion databases. Conclusions: We conclude that by giving more con- sideration to the appropriate application of plant names, vegetation scientists might enhance the relia- bility of analyses obtained from large vegetation databases.
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