JVS/AVS Editors’ Awards for 2020

The JVS and AVS Editor’s Awards for 2020 go to Sabrina Gavini and Lise Maciejewski. Congratulations!

Sabrina Gavini with colleagues explored whether local-scale biotic interactions affect biodiversity also at larger spatial scales (Gavini et al. 2020). A top-down view has often been used (regional richness is affecting local biodiversity). But there can also be bottom-up influences. Gavini et al. explored the nursing effect of cushion plants in the Andes. At the local scale, it is well known how facilitation can support biodiversity. With more than 2000 plant community descriptions from different mountain ranges, different altitudes, and different vegetation types, they estimated how many species might be in the region without cushion plants. The result is striking – local scale facilitation enables 40% more species to exist at the regional scale. Thus, when acting jointly, small local “charity actions” can have a huge impact. Thus, the species pool concept can be mixed with biotic interactions to have a more complete picture of biodiversity influences.

Lise Maciejewski and co-authors published the methodological paper “Vegetation unit assignments: phytosociology experts and classification programs show similar performance but low convergence” (Maciejewski et al. 2020). They dealt with an important issue of applied vegetation science – automatic assignment of vegetation-plot records to an existing vegetation or habitat classification. There are several methods of such assignment, and the senior author of the awarded paper, Jean-Claude Gégout, significantly contributed to their development in his past work. However, a critical caveat is that the performance of the automatic methods needs to be evaluated by comparing their assignments with standard (“correct”) assignments, but such standard assignments (“true classification”) do not exist. Previous studies compared the automatic assignments with assignments by an expert, considering the expert assignments as the “truth”, but experts often differ in their assignments. Maciejewski et al. proposed a novel approach. They used several experts from different professional organizations and assessed the agreement among the experts and among different methods of automatic assignment simultaneously. They found that although the assignments by individual experts and individual automatic methods differed in many cases, the overall degree of agreement was similar across all the experts and automatic methods. Their results demonstrate that the use of automatic methods is clearly advantageous because they perform similarly to the experts, but provide assignments for hundreds or thousands of plots within a few seconds or minutes, unlike experts who need many hours or days to do the same job.


Gavini, S.S, Ezcurra, C. & Aizen, M.A. (2020) Patch‐level facilitation fosters high‐Andean plant diversity at regional scales. Journal of Vegetation Science, 31, 1133-1143. https://doi.org/10.1111/jvs.12922

Maciejewski L., Pinto P.E., Wurpillot S., Drapier J., Cadet S., Muller S., Agou P., Renaux B, Gégout J.-C. (2020) Vegetation unit assignments: phytosociology experts and classification programs show similar performance but low convergence. Applied Vegetation Science, 23, 698-709. https://doi.org/10.1111/avsc.12516