Welcome to the Czech Republic!

It is my great honour and pleasure to invite you to the 58th Annual Symposium of the International Association for Vegetation Science (IAVS). The IAVS is the world’s leading scientific society of plant community ecologists and promotes research in all aspects of vegetation science and its application. It holds meetings and excursions, publishes scientific journals (Journal of Vegetation Science and Applied Vegetation Science) and provides other mechanisms to facilitate communication among vegetation scientists worldwide.

The Czech Republic, located in the heart of Europe, has a long tradition of vegetation research. Names such as Karel Domin, Jaromír Klika, Vladimír Krajina, Emil Hadač, Slavomil Hejný, Jaroslav Moravec and Robert Neuhäusl are well known for their landmark contributions to understanding vegetation patterns and processes in Europe and beyond. Czech vegetation scientists have also played an important role in shaping the IAVS as a scientific society and IAVS symposia in particular. From 1953 to 1981, the IAVS Annual Symposia were held in the German cities of Stolzenau and Rinteln, hosted by Professor Reinhold Tüxen. After he passed away in 1980, a new series of symposia began, held at a different venue every year. The first symposium of this new series was held in Prague in 1982, organised by Robert Neuhäusl and his colleagues from the Institute of Botany in Průhonice. The symposium topic was Chorological Phenomena in Plant Communities. The transformation process initiated in Prague resulted in the development of a new face of the IAVS as a truly global community of vegetation scientists focusing on a broad range of topics from community ecology theory to the application of vegetation science in nature management, conservation and restoration. This fundamental change was clearly evident at the second IAVS Symposium hosted in the Czech Republic, which was organised by Jan Lepš and Tomáš Herben at the University of South Bohemia, České Budějovice, in 1997.

Now the main annual event of the IAVS is returning to the Czech Republic for the third time, and I am pleased to host it in Brno, the home town of Johann Gregor Mendel, the founder of genetics, Georg Joseph Camellus, a 17th century botanist who gave his name to Camellia, and Leoš Janáček, a famous Czech composer. Today, Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic and the administrative, cultural and scientific centre of the South Moravian Region. Masaryk University in Brno, the second largest university in the country, has a strong tradition of teaching and research in natural sciences, including vegetation science as a highly successful field.

The Czech Republic is a small country. In spite of this, or perhaps because of this, many Czech ecologists are interested in broad-scale patterns and processes. Broad-scale phenomena were the focus of the Prague Symposium in 1982, and we are returning to this topic thirty-three years later to explore how our knowledge has improved over the last third of a century. Nevertheless, we will be looking primarily to the future: the Brno Symposium should provide us with new scientific ideas and opportunities to make new friends and establish exciting new collaboration in vegetation studies.

In addition to scientific sessions, we also want to use the IAVS Symposium to make you familiar with the vegetation, flora, nature and culture of the Czech Republic and Central Europe. We have prepared several excursions in the eastern part of the Czech Republic, a region on the boundary between the biomes of the European temperate deciduous forest and the Eastern European forest-steppe, and a post-symposium excursion to the Western Carpathians in Slovakia, where our Slovak colleagues will guide us across an altitudinal gradient from the Pannonian steppes in the foothills to the mountain summits. I am convinced you will enjoy both the scientific sessions and the field trips we have prepared!

Welcome to the Czech Republic and welcome to Brno, the world capital of vegetation science in 2015.

Milan Chytrý