Nordic-Baltic Grassland Vegetation Database (NBGVD) – current state and future prospects

Prepared by Nadiia Skobel, Łukasz Kozub & Jürgen Dengler

Spatial data coverage in the Nordic-Baltic Grassland Vegetation Database (NBGVD) in March 2024 (from the article)

The Nordic-Baltic region (Iceland, Belarus, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, N Poland, NW Russia, Svalbard and Jan Mayen, and Sweden) has a diverse vegetation, yet it is grossly underrepresented in international vegetation-plot databases, such as the European Vegetation Archive (EVA) and the global «sPlot». In consequence, continental and global models of different diversity aspects and broad-scale classifications are often biased in this region, or authors of such studies even exclude the Northern part of Europe from modelling due to sparse data. The Nordic-Baltic Grassland Vegetation Database (NBGVD), organised within the Eurasian Dry Grassland Group (EDGG) of the IAVS, is a collaborative initiative to overcome this shortage of data. Members of the consortium provide their own published and unpublished data and digitise and geo-reference vegetation plots from the literature.

Vegetation of the alvars (Precambrian flatrocks) is a typical and endemic element among the plant communities of the region and featured in the NBGVD. Alvar vegetation is very rich in bryophyte and lichen species as this stand on the Estonian island of Saaremaa shows (Photo credit: Jürgen Dengler)

Recently, the amount and quality of data in NBGVD has been significantly increasing, which motivates the publication of this Long Database Report describing the current content. As of March 2024, it included 12,694 relevés recorded between 1910 and 2023. These were mainly digitised from literature sources (84%), while the remainder came from individual unpublished sources (16%). The data quality is high, with bryophytes and lichens being treated in more than 80% of all plots and measured environmental variables such as topography and soil characteristics often available in standardised form. A peculiarity of the Nordic-Baltic region are the relatively small plot sizes compared to other regions (median: 4 m2). The available data stem from 35 vegetation classes of lowland grasslands and heathlands, arctic-alpine communities, coastal communities, non-forested mires and other wetlands, rocky, tall-herb and ruderal communities. The phytosociological classes Koelerio-Corynephoretea, Festuco-Brometea, Sedo-Scleranthetea, Molinio-Arrhenatheretea and Scheuchzerio-Caricetea are represented by the largest number of relevés. Since NBGVD data are regularly contributed to EVA and sPlot, NBGVD improves the data coverage for this part of the globe considerably. However, the fact that the typical plot sizes used in the region are much smaller than in the rest of Europe calls for adjusted selection criteria in studies that include this region. With this release, the data coverage in the region has improved significantly, but still is clearly below the European average. We thus plan to work on the continuous augmentation of NDBGD with both historic and current data and ask colleagues to join our consortium.

This is a plain language summary of the paper of Skobel et al. published in Vegetation Classification and Survey (https://doi.org/10.3897/VCS.119968)