Association (ecology)

In phytosociology and community ecology an association is a type of ecological community with a predictable species composition, consistent physiognomy (structural appearance) which occurs in a particular habitat type.[1]:181 The term was first coined by Alexander von Humboldt[1]:16 and formalised by the International Botanical Congress in 1910.[1]:182[2]

An association can be viewed as a real, integrated entity shaped either by species interactions or by similar habitat requirements, or it can be viewed as merely a common point along a continuum. The former view was championed by American ecologist Frederic Clements, who viewed the association as a whole that was more than the sum of its parts, and by Josias Braun-Blanquet, a Swiss-born phytosociologist. On the other end of the argument was American ecologist Henry Gleason,[1]:182–183 who saw these groupings of plant species as a coincidence produced by the "fluctuation and fortuitous immigration of plants, and an equally fluctuating and variable environment".[3][4]


  1. Barbour, Michael G.; Jack H. Burk; Wanna D. Pitts, Frank S. Gilliam; Mark W. Schwartz (1999). Terrestrial Plant Ecology (Third ed.). Addison Wesley Longman.
  2. Willner, Wolfgang (2006). "The association concept revisited". Phytocoenologia. 36 (1): 67–76. doi:10.1127/0340-269x/2006/0036-0067.
  3. Gleason (1935), cited in Barbour et al. 1999, p. 184
  4. Gleason, H.A. (1926), "The Individualistic Concept of the Plant Association", Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, 53 (1): 7–26, doi:10.2307/2479933, JSTOR 2479933 p.23

Further reading

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