Jean Marie Royer:

Synthèse eurosibérienne, phytosociologique et phytogéographique de la classe des Festuco-Brometea

1991. 296 pages, 17 figures, 8 tables, 14x22cm, 600 g
Language: Français

(Dissertationes Botanicae, Band 178)

ISBN 978-3-443-64090-3, broch., price: 72.00 €

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Review: Bulletin 3 (June 2009) of the European Dry Grassland Group top ↑

This book comprises the supraregional part of an even more extensive doctoral thesis, defended 1987 at the University of Franche-Comte in Besançon. It is an outstanding and potentially unique publication, as it comprises a synthetic view of a whole vegetation class, covering its global distribution area. If similar attempts have been made in the past, either they dealt with much smaller classes or they were much more superficial.

By contrast, in Royer (1991) the class Festuco- Brometea is covered really in a geographically comprehensive manner, from north Spain to the Lake Baikal. The author very extensively evaluated the then existing literature from the whole area, including many publications in regional journals throughout Europe, many of which are hardly accessible from abroad. A reference list of 44 pages testifies his huge effort and in itself is a valuable source of information for any reader dealing with large-scale classification of dry grasslands.

The book is structured into eight chapters: 1. General characterisation and phytogeographic delimitation of the class; 2. major subdivisions of the class; 3.–7. description of those five orders treated in more detail; 8. floristic relationships to related classes. The author proposes to subdivide the class into eight vicariating orders (from west to east) Festuco-Poetalia ligulatae, Ononidetalia striatae, Brometalia erecti, Festucetalia valesiacae, Scorzonero-Chrysopogonetalia, an unnamed order of Crimea and Caucasus, Helictrotricho- Stipetalia, and Carici-Agropyretalia cristati. These orders and their subdivision are systematically described down to the level of suballiances, providing information on their distribution, ecology, diagnostic species, and referring the relevant literature. These descriptions are accompanied by various maps on the distribution (based on the relevés included in the synoptic tables in the supplement) and schemas elucidating the classification. Royer proposes to subdivide each of these geographically defined orders on the next lower hierarchical level according to ecological conditions into four groups: mesoxerophilous (meadow steppes), xerophilous (feather grass steppes), rupicolous, and (only for the most continental orders) semideserts. When these ecological groups within one order comprised more than one alliance, Royer suggests to establish suborders, such as the Mesobromenalia consisting of the Potentillo- Brachypodion, the Onobrychidion hispanicae, the Mesobromion erecti, and the Gentianello- Avenulion.

The book ends with three very useful appendices: (i) a syntaxonomic overview of all syntaxa down to suballiances, with an enumeration of all association-rank syntaxa that are included (the latter have normally not been checked for nomenclatural correctness or potential identity); (ii) nomenclatural novelties (unfortunately these are only partly valid); (iii) a list of 1,246 vascular plant species, for each of which the diagnostic value within the class and its subunits is given. Most important among the supplements is Table 1 that combines synoptic columns for all distinguishes (sub-) alliances of the Brometalia erecti and the Festucetalia valesiacae in Europe, based on not less than 281 individual sources/syntaxa.

Despite the fact that this book is nearly 20 years old and one may certainly disagree with the author on his concepts for individual syntaxa, his work is still the most important reference with which each new largescale synthesis of this class has to compete. While it was one of the driving ideas behind the establishment of the EDGG to aim at developing a consistent continent- wide classification of the Festuco-Brometea and related classes, we have to concede that it will take at least several more years until we will be able to present a relevé-based classification scheme that really can out-compete this pioneer work based on comprehensive literature overview and partly on compilation of synthetic tables.

Fortunately, this important book is still available from the publisher. However, it is a pity that its high price (in particular in relation to its rather basic outfit) and perhaps also the French language (without English summaries) probably will prevent the desirable wide distribution among our members.

Jürgen Dengler, Hamburg, Germany

Bulletin 3 (June 2009) of the European Dry Grassland Group