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Bruelheide et al. (2019) - Appendix S3: Details on the workflow for setting up plot definitions in sPlot 2.1

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SUPPORTING INFORMATION TO THE PAPER
Bruelheide et al. sPlot – a new tool for global vegetation analyses. Journal of Vegetation Science.
1
APPENDIX S3. Details on the workflow for setting up plot definitions in sPlot 2.1
Definition of physiognomic formations
Plots that had information on vegetation type or layer-specific cover (ca. 20% of all plots) were broadly
classified into communities that were tree-dominated (forests), shrub-dominated (shrublands), or lacked
tree or shrub species (grasslands), sparsely vegetated types and wetlands or combinations thereof, using
a 0/1 coding. For example, if forest = 1 and grassland = 1, this would code for a savanna-like vegetation.
Note that the assignment procedure is ongoing and not all plots have been yet assigned to formations.
Table S3.2. Definitions and examples of the physiognomic formations used in sPlot. They are derived by
the combination of five basic categories: Forest, Shrubland, Grassland, Sparse.vegetation and Wetland,
each rated with 0/1. We use the terms tree for woody species > 5 m height and shrub for woody species
of 0.5–5 m height. “x” means that either 0 or 1 are possible, resulting in different types.
Forest
Shrubland
Grassland
Sparse.
vegetation
Wetland
Formation Definition
1 0 0 0 0 Forest Total cover >= 25%; tree cover >= 25%
1 1 0 0 0 Shrubland with
some trees
Total cover >= 25%; tree cover 10 - <25%; shrub
cover > herb cover
1 0 1 0 0 Savanna Total cover >= 25%; tree cover 10 - <25%; herb
cover > shrub cover
1 0 0 1 0 Scattered trees Total cover < 25%; tree cover >0 - < 10%
0
1
0
0
0
Shrubland
Total cover >= 25%; no trees; shrub cover > herb
cover or if smaller then shrub cover > 50%
0 1 1 0 0 Grassland with
some shrubs or
heathland
Total cover >= 25%; no trees; herb cover > shrub
cover; also for heathlands!
0 1 0 1 0 Scattered shrubs Total cover < 25%; no trees; shrub cover > herb
cover
0
0
1
0
0
Grassland
or
herbland
To
tal cover >= 25%; no trees, shrubs < 10%
0 0 1 1 0 Open grassland or
desert steppe
Total cover 10 - <25%; no trees, shrubs < 10%
0 0 0 1 0 Sparsely
vegetated
Total cover <10%, no trees, no shrubs (e.g. rocks,
screes, open sand dunes, deserts, nival vegetation)
0 0 0 0 1 Aquatic
vegetation
Permanently water-covered
x x x x 1 Semi-aquatic
vegetation
Very wet or temporarily water-covered (e.g. flood
plains, mires, springs, temporary pools, salt marshs,
mangroves)
0
0
0
0
0
SUPPORTING INFORMATION TO THE PAPER
Bruelheide et al. sPlot – a new tool for global vegetation analyses. Journal of Vegetation Science.
2
Definition of the degree of naturalness
We were able to assign the majority of plots to one of three levels of naturalness from 1 (natural),
through 2 (semi-natural), to 3 (anthropogenic). Categories of naturalness and formations were
approximately derived from information provided by the source databases to match the definitions in
Table S4.3. Main pieces of information used were (a) vegetation height; (b) cover values per vegetation
layer; (c) vernacular names of vegetation types; (d) phytosociological classifications in the large majority
of European plots and some from other continents, and (e) land use information. Often the database as a
whole already provided part of the information, e.g. when it only contained tropical forest plots or rice
field plots. Note that the assignment procedure is ongoing and not all plots have been yet assigned to a
degree of naturalness.
Table S3.3. Definition and examples of the categories of naturalness used in sPlot.
Code Meaning Definition Examples
0 Not assessed - -
1 Natural or
near-natural
Same formation as naturally occurring
vegetation and species all or largely
native, with low-intensity human land use,
e.g. logging of timber or pasturing of
steppes as long as it does not
fundamentally change site conditions or
structure and species composition of the
vegetation.
Forests composed of native
species; grasslands in regions
where grasslands form the climax
vegetation; various types of
azonal vegetation (e.g. aquatic,
bog, fen, coastal, rock, scree,
alpine vegetation)
2 Semi-natural Vegetation types that are more
profoundly changed by humans, but with
a species composition that still has many
similarities with the natural vegetation
and site conditions that are not
fundamentally altered compared to
natural conditions.
Forest plantations composed of
non-native species; shrublands in
the cultural landscape; mown or
livestock-grazed secondary
grasslands and heathlands in
forest biomes.
3 Anthropogenic Vegetation types that have very little in
common with the natural vegetation on
sites with profoundly altered site
conditions and/or disturbance regimes.
Arable fields; ruderal vegetation;
vegetation of anthropogenic
structures; frequently mown and
reseeded grasslands

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