Location: Europe, western Siberia and south-eastern Greenland.
Methods: 29 049 vegetation-plot records of fens were selected using a list of specialist fen species. Formal definitions of alliances were created using the presence, absence and abundance of Cocktail-based species groups and indicator species. DCA visualized the similarities among the alliances in an ordination space. The ISOPAM algorithm was applied to regional subsets with homogeneous plot size to check whether the classification based on formal definitions matches the results of unsupervised classifications.
Results: The following alliances were defined: Caricion viridulo-trinervis (sub-halophytic Atlantic dune-slack fens), Caricion davallianae (temperate calcareous fens), Caricion atrofusco-saxatilis (arcto-alpine calcareous fens), Stygio-Caricion limosae (boreal topogenic brown-moss fens), Sphagno warnstorfii-Tomentypnion nitentis (Sphagnum-brown-moss rich fens), Saxifrago-Tomentypnion (continental to boreo-continental nitrogen-limited brown-moss rich fens), Narthecion scardici (alpine fens with Balkan endemics), Caricion stantis (arctic brown-moss rich fens), Anagallido tenellae-Juncion bulbosi (Ibero-Atlantic moderately rich fens), Drepanocladion exannulati (arcto-boreal-alpine non-calcareous fens), Caricion fuscae (temperate moderately rich fens), Sphagno-Caricion canescentis (poor fens) and Scheuchzerion palustris (dystrophic hollows). The main variation in the species composition of European fens reflected site chemistry (pH, mineral richness) and sorted the plots from calcareous and extremely rich fens, through rich and moderately rich fens, to poor fens and dystrophic hollows. ISOPAM classified regional subsets according to this gradient, illustrating the ecological meaningfulness of this classification concept on both the regional and continental scale. Geographical/macroclimatic variation was reflected in the second most important gradient.
Conclusions: The pan-European classification of fen vegetation was proposed. Formal definitions developed here allow consistent and unequivocal assignment of individual vegetation plots to fen alliances at the continental scale.
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