Ecology and dynamics of plant communities


Plant communities are in the centre of most the group interests, with a main tool which is exhaustive plant inventories in the field. Four questions are mainly considered:

  • Dynamics of plant communities: influences of climate change, agricultures and other anthropogenic disturbances on species composition studied through permanent plots or quasi-permanent plots;
  • Autecology of endangered species: better understanding of the ecological niche of endangered species in order to improve their conservation;
  • Reliability of plant inventories: evaluation of the importance of mistakes (overlooked species and visual cover estimations) in exhaustive plant inventories;
  • Classification and ecology of plant communities: participation to the projet PhytoSuisse aiming to synthesize one century of description of plant communities in Switzerland (see


Team: Pascal Vittoz, Magalì Matteodo (PhD student)


Research projects

This project aims to conserve historical and recent data about permanent plots and monitoring of the vegetation in Switzerland. These data are available to the scientific community for research projects. But supplementary existing data are welcome as well to complete the data bank. See web pages of the project under for more information.


Inventory of a permanent plot in the Alps (Vallon de Nant, 2640 m)

Inventory of a permanent plot in the Alps (Vallon de Nant, 2640 m)

References: See complete list at


  • GLORIA: Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments in Switzerland - monitoring of alpine permanent plots

GLORIA is an international project aiming to monitor alpine vegetation with a same method in each region. Initiated in Europe in 2001, the project cover now the whole mountain ranges in the world. Each region normally contains four summits, scattered from timber line to the nival belt. Three regions are in Switzerland, two in Graubünden and one in Valais. In collaboration with Jean-Paul Theurillat (Centre alpien de phytogéographie), the group is responsible for the four summits in Valais. Inventories were realised in 2001, 2008 and 2015.


One of the 52 1-m2 plots monitored in the Valais for the GLORIA project (photo M. Vust)

Winkler M., A. Lamprecht, K. Steinbauer, K. Hülber, J.-P. Theurillat et al. (In press). The rich sides of mountain summits - a pan-European view on aspect preferences of alpine plants. Journal of Biogeography. DOI: 10.1111/jbi.12835.
Gottfried M., Pauli H., Futschik A., Akhalkatsi M., Barančok P. et al. (2012) Continent wide response of mountain vegetation to climate change. Nature Climate Change 2: 111-115.
Pauli H., Gottfried M., Dullinger S., Abdaladze O., Akhalkatsi M. et al. (2012). Recent plant diversity changes on Europe’s mountain summits. Science 336: 353-355.
Vittoz, P., N. Bayfield, R. Brooker, D. Elston, B. Duff, J.-P. Theurillat & A. Guisan (2010). Reproducibility of species lists, visual cover estimates and frequency methods for recording high mountain vegetation. Journal of Vegetation Science 21: 1035-1047.
Vittoz, P., M. Camenisch, R. Mayor, L. Miserere, M. Vust & J.-P. Theurillat (2010). Subalpine-nival gradient of species richness for vascular plants, lichens and bryophytes in the Swiss Inner Alps. Botanica Helvetica 120: 139-149.
Dullinger, S., I. Kleinbauer, H. Pauli, M. Gottfried, R. Brooker et al. (2007). Weak and variable relationships between environmental severity and small-scale co-occurrence in alpine plant communities. Journal of Ecology 95: 1284-1295.