A description of the flora is an integral part of resource survey
work. The researcher has a range of techniques available to use
in a flora survey.
Imagine being asked to design a flora survey for a site because
an EIS required the listing of all rare and endangered species at
that site. Now imagine designing a survey for the same site that
required general information on habitat complexity to help determine
distribution of faunal communities.
Do you think you would use the same techniques?
Clearly, the technique that you would use would vary with the aims
of the survey. An intensive floristic inventory would be employed
for the former example, whereas a general description of community
type and its structure would be appropriate for the latter.
Factors to consider
The following are factors considered when selecting a flora
- relevance to aims of project
- ecologists with botanical training generally prefer an
approach based upon floristics. Disadvantages are that it
requires considerable time and expertise.
- zoologists are often more interested in vegetation as a
matrix in which animals feed and live. Hence its structure,
particularly stratification, and habitat diversity is more
- soil scientists, geologists and climatologists are interested
in vegetation as an expression of the factors they study.
They prefer classifications that produce mapable units.
- foresters frequently use an assessment of species composition
to indicate site potential and to help in selecting species
for planting. However, indicator species are most often used
and objective methods for describing vegetation are usually
restricted to research projects.
- objectivity (reproducability)
In practice the research worker usually has to compromise. The most
objective method may not be the fastest. The most accurate may be
destructive. Experimental design and analysis skills developed in
SBI504, and continued reference to texts on experimental designs
and the planning of experiments, are useful in making these decisions.
In your required reading for this topic (Goldsmith 1986) a figure
is presented (Figure 9.1, p. 439) which provides the researcher
with a flow chart that gives guidance about which method to select.
Refer to that diagram now.
Goldsmith, F.B., Harrison, C.M. and Morton, A.J. (1986). "Description
and Analysis of Vegetation." in Moore P.D. and Chapman
S.B. (eds) Methods in Plant Ecology. pages 437-524.
Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford.
Note that only six major problems frequently confronted by ecologists
have been listed. More recent innovations with remote sensing methodologies
have increased the options.
The following two sections provide more detail about the survey
sampling methods which are used for flora:
Survey sampling methods