Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2020, Vol. 44 ›› Issue (7): 699-714.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2020.0054

• Review •     Next Articles

History of French-Swiss School of phytosociology and its influences on modern vegetation ecology

ZHANG Jian, SONG Kun, SONG Yong-Chang*()   

  1. Zhejiang Tiantong Forest Ecosystem National Observation and Research Station, School of Ecological and Environmental Sciences, East China Normal University, Shanghai Key Lab for Urban Ecological Process and Eco-Restoration, Shanghai 200241, China
  • Received:2020-03-03 Accepted:2020-04-21 Online:2020-07-20 Published:2020-08-27
  • Contact: SONG Yong-Chang,


Aims The French-Swiss School of phytosociology, also known as the Braun-Blanquet School, is prevalent in Europe and is one of the most influential schools in vegetation science. Here we gave a short introduction of the history of the French-Swiss School, its fundamental theory and the field practice. The development of the school can be divided into four periods: establishment (1910-1943), development (1945-1980), transition (1980-1990), and integration (1990-). The school gives emphasis on the importance of field practice, species interactions and community dynamics, and the critical role of character species or diagnostic species in vegetation studies. The school also emphasizes that the main attribute of plant community is species composition, and has developed a detailed workflow of field inventory and vegetation classification. Using the association as the basic unit, it builds a rigorous and formal system for vegetation classification. And the school has the strong compatibility in theory and technique. All these advantages are served as the basis of the development of current vegetation ecology. In addition, we identified several improvements needed or challenges of the school, including the definition of character species and association, data integration and transformation, and the linkage with eco-physiognomic vegetation classification. Finally, we gave a short introduction to the history of the French-Swiss School in China, and discussed its potential to elevate the current vegetation research in China.

Key words: Braun-Blanquet School, phytosociology, association, vegetation classification, community dynamics, character species