Plant Geography

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Plant Geography

The study of the spatial distributions of plants and vegetation and of the environmental relationships which may influence these distributions. Plant geography (or certain aspects of it) is also known as phytogeography, phytochorology, geobotany, geographical botany, or vegetation science.

A flora is the collection of all plant species in an area, or in a period of time, independent of their relative abundances and relationships to one another. The species can be grouped and regrouped into various kinds of floral elements based on some common feature. For example, a genetic element is a group of species with a common evolutionary origin; a migration element has a common route of entry into the territory; a historical element is distinct in terms of some past event; and an ecological element is related to an environmental preference. An endemic species is restricted to a particular area, which is usually small and of some special interest. The collection of all interacting individuals of a given species, in an area, is called a population.

An area is the entire region of distribution or occurrence of any species, element, or even an entire flora. The description of areas is the subject of areography, while chorology studies their development. The local distribution within the area as a whole, as that of a swamp shrub, is the topography of that area. Areas are of interest in regard to their general size and shape, the nature of their margin, whether they are continuous or disjunct, and their relationships to other areas. Closely related plants that are mutually exclusive are said to be vicarious (areas containing such plants are also called vicarious). A relict area is one surviving from an earlier and more extensive occurrence. On the basis of areas and their floristic relationships, the Earth's surface is divided into floristic regions, each with a distinctive flora.

Floras and their distribution have been interpreted mainly in terms of their history and ecology. Historical factors, in addition to the evolution of the species themselves, include consideration of theories of shifting continental masses, changing sea levels, and orographic and climatic variations in geologic time, as well as theories of island biogeography, all of which have affected migration and perpetuation of floras. The main ecological factors include the immediate and contemporary roles played by climate, soil, animals, and humans. See Island biogeography

Vegetation refers to the mosaic of plant life found on the landscape. The vegetation of a region has developed from the numerous elements of the local flora but is shaped also by nonfloristic physiological and environmental influences. Vegetation is an organized whole, at a higher level of integration than the separate species, composed of those species and their populations. Vegetation may possess emergent properties not necessarily found in the species themselves. Sometimes vegetation is very weakly integrated, as pioneer plants of an abandoned field. Sometimes it is highly integrated, as in an undisturbed tropical rainforest. Vegetation provides the main structural and functional framework of ecosystems. See Ecosystem

Plant communities are an important part of vegetation. No definition ...
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