Australian Vegetation Attribute Manual

National Vegetation Information System, Version 6.0
Executive Steering Committee for Australian Vegetation Information (ESCAVI)
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2003
ISBN 0 642 54953 2

Appendix A: Glossary

The following definitions apply in this document.

Term Definition Reference(s)
API Aerial photo interpretation/aerial photogrammetry Brocklehurst, pers. comm., 2000
Accuracy assessment Usually a statistical analysis of the closeness of estimates to true values or corresponding population values. An accurate estimator carries little or no bias. It may or may not be precise. Lund 1995
Alliance A group of floristically related associations of similar structure. The alliance takes its name from the most characteristic dominant species of its component associations. Beadle and Costin, 1952
Analysis method Procedures used to derive new information by bringing together and processing the basic data (polygons, lines, points, labels, etc.). Methods used to analyse data and draw conclusions from that data. Lund 1995; NVIS**
Association An association is defined as a climax community of which the dominant stratum has a qualitatively uniform floristic composition and which exhibits uniform structure as a whole. For each stratum, the association description of the vegetation type should include floristic information for the dominant and/or diagnostic species (maximum of 3 species per stratum) plus the structural formation (dominant growth form, cover, height are combined as per Table 4). A maximum of three strata (upper, mid and ground;Walker & Hopkins (1990)) are allowed and the dominant stratum is indicated by a plus symbol "+".NVIS Level V. Beadle and Costin, 1952     NVIS**
Attribute In a GIS, an attribute is analogous to a data element or column in a data base table. A standardised data field describing qualitative or quantitative information. Lund 1995; NVIS**
Biomass The total mass (usually measured as dry weight) of all the living organisms in a given area, population, habitat, or trophic level, often expressed as kg/ha or tonnes per ha. For NVIS, this refers to plant material. Meagher, 1991
Boolean A Boolean or logical data type can have only one of two values: true or false (or Yes/No or 1/0). Parker, 1994 ERIN*
Broad Floristic Formation Dominant growth form, cover and height (combined into structural formation nomenclature according to Table 4) plus the dominant land cover genus for the dominant stratum. NVIS Level III. NVIS**
Canopy A cover of foliage formed either by the community as a whole or by one of its component layers. It may be continuous or discontinuous. Beadle and Costin, 1952
Characteristic species The species which distinguish the vegetation community. Beadle and Costin, 1952
Class An upper level of the information hierarchy describing growth form and broad structure of the vegetation. NVIS level I. Walker & Hopkins, 1990
Classification system The systematic grouping of entities into categories based upon shared characteristics Lund, 1995
Climax The final stages of succession. A subjective concept. Beadle and Costin, 1952
Co-dominant A species that is equally dominant with one or more other species in the sub-association. In NVIS, co-dominance can also refer to a growth form instead of a species. NVIS**
Community A natural aggregate of different species of organisms existing in the same environment. While species within the community interact with each other, forming food chains and other ecological systems, they do not generally interact with species in other communities. For the purposes of NVIS, a community is described as an assemblage of plant species which are structurally and floristically similar and form a repeating 'unit' across the landscape. See also vegetation type below. Meagher, 1991     NVIS**
Cover The proportion of the ground occupied by perpendicular projection on to it of the aerial parts of the individuals of the species under consideration. Kershaw and Looney, 1985.
Cover abundance A relatively crude estimate of species quantities which may be expedient but necessarily satisfactory for many vegetation description purposes. General expressed in class ranges - eg. The Braun Blanquet cover abundance scale. Mueller-Dombois, D. and H. Ellenberg, 1974; NVIS**
Crown cover The cover produced by the foliage and branches of a tree, or collectively of the trees in a plant community, especially a forest. A canopy may be continuous or not, and may not always be formed only by the dominant species. Meagher, 1991
Data custodian The data custodian is responsible for ensuring the accuracy, currency, storage, security and distribution of the data set. In fulfilling these responsibilities, the custodian is expected to consult with, and take into account the needs of users other than itself. The custodian may choose to delegate these functions while still retaining responsibility.   The custodian of a data set need not necessarily be the holder of the copyright, or the originator of the data, although in many cases the custodian will be both of these. ANZLIC, 1996
Data Set or Dataset A unique, spatially defined collection of data, which is relatively homogeneous and is able to be described by a single metadata statement. ANZLIC, 1996
Dominant A common species that is always dominant in the sub-association. It has the greatest biomass and is generally the most frequent. Any number of species could be dominant e.g. 1,2,3,4 or 5 depending on the association. See also co-dominant and sub-dominant. Wilson and Brocklehurst, pers. comm., 2000
Dominant stratum The stratum which, because of its physiognomy and relative continuity, dominates the rest of the community in the sense that it conditions the habitats of the other strata. The most important or characteristic stratum of a particular vegetation type. It probably occupies the greatest space. Beadle and Costin, 1952   Brocklehurst, pers. comm., 2000
Ecologically Dominant Stratum Defined as the stratum making the greatest contribution to the overall biomass of the vegetation type.  
Ecological dominance, ecologically predominant Ecological dominance is defined as the species making the greatest contribution to the overall biomass of the stratum, site, vegetation type etc. Definition agreed at July workshop, 1999
Ecosystem An aggregate of animals, plants and other organisms and the non-living parts of the environment, that interacts and which is relatively self-contained in terms of energy flow. Meagher, 1991 and Lawrence, 1996
Essential An attribute that must be filled in to adequately to provide a useful Vegetation Description at all levels in the NVIS Information Hierarchy. NVIS**
Extant Existing at the present time. Meagher, 1991
Foliage cover Is the percentage of the same site occupied by the vertical projection of foliage and branches (if woody). Carnahan, 1976
Floristics A description or study of the plant species that occur in a defined area or vegetation type. Meagher, 1991
Formation The synthetic structural unit to which are referred all climax communities exhibiting the same structural form, irrespective of floristic composition. Beadle and Costin, 1952
Frequency The number of occurrences of one type of event in relation to the total number of events observed in a sample. For NVIS, this could be the number of sites containing a growth forms and/or species compared with the total number of sites in the survey. Meagher, 1991; NVIS**
GPS Global Positioning System Parker, 1994
Growth-form Habit or general appearance of a plant. Similar in definition to "life form", but growth form in NVIS is oriented to the classification of Australia's vegetation, as per Walker & Hopkins (1990). NVIS**
Habit The general appearance of a plant (such as shrubby, prostrate, erect, climbing, twining, etc.) used particularly in horticulture. Meagher, 1991
Height Measurement from base to top of a stratum, growth form and/or species. Can be calculated for a given community to derive the average height for a given stratum. Fowler & Fowler, 1996 NVIS**
Image The recorded representation of an object produced by optical, electro-optical, optical mechanical, or electronic means. It is generally used when the electromagnetic radiation emitted or reflected from a scene is not directly recorded on film. Harrison & Jupp, 1990
Information Hierarchy The systematic arrangement of NVIS vegetation attributes in order of descriptive complexity. (See Tables 1 & 6). NVIS**
Indicator/diagnostic species A species that characterises a particular vegetation type but which may not necessarily be the most dominant. Brocklehurst, pers. comm., 2000
Jurisdiction The jurisdiction is the name of the State or Country in which the custodian of the data set is domiciled. ANZLIC 1996
Level The attribute groupings within the NVIS Information Hierarchy that recognise information of similar spatial, structural, growth form and floristic detail. NVIS**
Life-form The form characteristically taken by a plant at maturity. (Many categorisations of life forms in the botanical literature are inadequate, or too complicated, for the purpose of classifying Australian vegetation types.) See also Growth Form. Parker, 1994 ERIN*
Mandatory An attribute that must be filled in to adequately to identify, locate and manage the main components of the database and information transfer. Bolton, 1992
Map Unit A map unit is a spatial category which contains a vegetation type or group of co-occurring vegetation types. The map unit is commonly an item in a map legend and is delineated on the map by means of one to many polygons. NVIS**
Mapping methods The identification of selected features, the determination of their boundaries or locations, and the delineation of those boundaries or locations on a suitable base using predefined criteria. Methods or techniques used to produce both the spatial and attribute information for a particular vegetation map Lund 1995   Brocklehurst, pers. comm., 2003
Metadata A written description for a data set. Metadata should conform to the ANZLIC Metadata Guidelines, 1996. ANZLIC, 1996
Missing values Values that have not been recorded for a given data set. Sometimes referred to as Null values or as -9999 in a GIS system. NVIS**
Model A theoretical representation of a system used to predict changes under the influence of various factors. Meagher, 1991
Mosaic Two or more vegetation descriptions present within a map unit. This is where the scale of mapping or the spatial patterns is too complex for each vegetation type to be mapped separately. ERIN*
Percentage cover The cover of any vegetation as a percentage for a given area. ERIN*
Physiognomic Physiognomy is the external appearance of vegetation including such features as colour, luxuriance, seasonality and overall compositional features that can be quickly determined by means of visual assessment. A vegetation classification based on the appearance or physical characteristics of the dominant taxon is called a physiognomic classification. The NVIS Hierarchy is a Physiognomic-Floristic classification, with higher levels containing physiognomic information and the lower, more detailed levels, containing both physiognomic and floristic information. Jones et al, 1990   Brocklehurst, pers. comm., 2003
Positional accuracy The degree of conformity with which horizontal positions and vertical values are represented on a map, chart, or related product in relation to an established standard. Lund 1995
Pre-clearing Vegetation types and extent before European settlement in Australia. Often referred to as pre-1750 and pre-European vegetation. ERIN*
Resolution The resolvability of features for a given map scale. Scale effects resolution. In a larger scale map, the resolution of features more closely matches real-world features because the extent of reduction from ground to map is less. Map resolution may refer to a "minimum mapping unit" or the accuracy at which a given map scale can depict the location and shape of map features. ESRI, 1994; Lund 1995
Scale Map scale indicates how much the given area was reduced. For the same size map, features on a small-scale map (1:1,000,000) will be smaller than those on a large-scale map (1:1,200). ESRI, 1994
Species A group of organisms that are biologically capable of breeding and producing fertile offspring. It is the lowest normal taxonomic unit in use. Meagher, 1991
Spectral class A class which is developed on the basis of the pixel spectral, or radiance, data and/or channels derived from radiance data. In terms of thematic mapping all the pixels which fall into a spectral class are interactively overlaid with a distinct colour to aid in interpretation. Harrison & Jupp, 1990.
Stratum/Sub-stratum A layer in a community produced by the occurrence at approximately the same level of an aggregation of plants of the same habit. Beadle and Costin, 1952; NVIS**
Structural formation Formation classes defined by growth form and crown separation (woody plants) or foliage cover (ground stratum), and qualified by height class. NVIS level II. Walker and Hopkins, 1990
Structure The spatial arrangement (vertically and horizontally) of plants within a community. Beadle and Costin, 1952; NVIS**
Sub-Association A sub division of the association determined by a variation in the most important subordinate stratum of the association, without significant qualitative changes in the dominant stratum.   In NVIS, for each layer/sub-stratum, the sub-association description of the vegetation type should include floristic information for the dominant and/or diagnostic species (maximum of 5 species per sub-stratum) plus the structural formation (dominant growth form, cover, height are combined as per Table 4). A maximum of eight sub-strata (as per Table 2) are allowed and the dominant sub-stratum is indicated by a plus symbol "+". NVIS level 6. Beadle and Costin, 1952; NVIS**
Sub-dominant A species that occurs frequently in the vegetation type but has a lesser relative biomass than the dominant species. Wilson & Brocklehurst, pers. comm., 2000.
Sub-Formation Dominant growth form, cover and height (combined into structural formation nomenclature according to Table 4) plus the dominant land cover genus for the three traditional strata. (i.e. Upper, Mid and Ground). NVIS level IV. NVIS**
Taxon (plural = taxa) Any of the groups into which living things are formally classified by the scientific community, e.g. species. The taxa in the Linnean system are commonly Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species and sub-species/varieties/forms. Meagher, 1991; ERIN*
URL Universal Resource Locator ERIN*
Vegetation All plants within a specified area. It is usually considered generally and not taxonomically. Lawrence, 1996
Vegetation description A set of attribute values pertaining to a vegetation type and contained in the NVIS Information Hierarchy and supporting tables. NVIS**
Vegetation type A community that has a floristically uniform structure and composition, often described by its dominant species. In NVIS, a vegetation type is commonly represented by a vegetation description. Meagher, 1991   ERIN*
     -pers. comm. staff in the Environmental Resources Information Network, Environment Australia
     -no formal reference found for definition agreed for the NVIS.

NVIS** - defined in this document for the purposes of NVIS, including the NVIS Information Hierarchy