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Fitosociologia 42 (2) 2005

pag. 23-31: A new methodology for the quantitative evaluation of the conservation status of vegetation: the potentiality distance index (PDI)

A. Penas, S. del Río & L. Herrero

Departamento de Biología Vegetal (Área de Botánica), Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas y Ambientales, Universidad de León, Campus de Vegazana s/n., I-24071 León; e-mail: dbvsrg@unileon.es

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Mapping of the present state of vegetation for the use in nature conservation is a practical and useful application of phytocoenology. Methods of modern phytosociology allow a good scientific evaluation of the biological value of a territory. In this sense, the main aim of this study is to propose an objective and quantifiable scientific index (Potentiality Distance Index, PDI) in order to evaluate the distance to the optimum status (series head) of each territory and therefore its global conservation status.
The Index is based on the application and interpretation of the Symphytosociological or Dynamic-Catenal Phytosociological conception. Thus, taking into account the successional relations of the different types of vegetation and their naturalness indexes is possible to define a formula for evaluating the distance to the series head and therefore to their optimum conservation status. The Index has been tested in different territories of the Iberian Peninsula using the Actual Vegetation Cartography developed for the National Inventory of Natural and Seminatural Habitat Types (Rivas-Martínez et al., 1993) in order to determine the protected sites that have constituted Natura 2000.
Results proposed in the current study show the Index is objective and universal because the global conservation status of the studied area is in accord with results proposed by other authors for this territory with similar indexes. The Index can provide objective and quantitative information to be applied in land management and nature conservation studies, being a useful tool for the restoration of potential natural vegetation in degraded areas.


Dynamic-Catenal Phytosociology, land management, nature conservation, naturalness index, potential natural vegetation