A method for studying the response of vegetation to environmental gradients, based on the community niche and fuzzy set theory, is presented. The approach is illustrated using an example from perennial halophilous vegetation along the Northern Adriatic coast of Italy. Compatibility curves are obtained by fuzzy set theoreticalmethods, and are used tomodel the response functions of plant associations to environmental gradients, including soil and ground water salinity, soil pH, soil and ground water temperature, percentage of sand, and variations in the ground water level. The compatibility curves summarize the similarity of a given plant community, with a particular value of an environmental variable, to the species combination of a given plant association. Compatibility curves offer an alternative approach to non-linear regression and best fit analyses normally used to model single species responses to environmental gradients. The approach is particularly useful given there is no singlemechanisticmodel that can capture the exact shape of the functional response along environmental gradients, and given that environmental data are commonly affected by high levels of noise.
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