This Special Feature includes contributions on data-processing of large ecological datasets under the heading ecoinformatics. Herewith the latter term is now also established in the Journal of Vegetation Science. Ecoinfomatics is introduced as a rapid growing field within community ecology which is generating exciting new developments in ecology and in particular vegetation ecology. In our field, ecoinformatics deals with the understanding of patterns of species distributions at local and regional scales, and on the assemblages of species in relation to their properties, the local environment and their distribution in the region. Community ecology using ecoinformatics is related to bioinformatics, community ecology, biogeography and macroecology.
We make clear how ecoinformatics in vegetation science and particularly the IAVS Working Group on Ecoinformatics has developed from the work of the old Working Group for Data Processing which was active during the 1970s and 1980s. Recent developments, including the creation of TURBOVEG and SynBioSys in Europa and VEGBANK in the USA, form a direct link with these pioneer activities, both scientifically and personally.
The contributions collected in this Special Feature present examples of seco-infeveral types of the use of databases and the application of programmes and models. The main types are the study of long-term vegetation dynamics in different cases of primary and secondary succession and the understanding of successional developments in terms of species traits.
Among the future developments of great significance we mention the use of a variety of different large datasets for the study of the distribution and ecology and conservation of rare and threatened species.