Reliable and detailed maps of species distributions provide the basis for a broad spectrum of biological, ecological, geographical, and conservational issues. To create the necessary fundamental data and to make them available in distribution atlases and in computerized databases has become, during the last decades, the objective of international, national and regional botanical and zoological mapping schemes throughout Europe and beyond.
For Austria, our Research Group is acting as the national center for the project "Floristic Mapping of Austria", initiated by F. Ehrendorfer in 1963 and effectively started in 1967 within a Central European international framework. While cooperating with regional institutions, working groups and field botanists in the Austrian federal states, we provide methodical outlines and working tools, execute extensive fieldwork throughout many parts of Austria (with the aim of attaining an even and dense country-wide data coverage), advise voluntary collaborators, examine and revise obtained field-records, extract complementary data from botanical literature and herbaria, and establish and maintain the mapping database.
Our database contains about 1 800 000 Austrian records, each corresponding to one floristic observation, complemented by about 130 000 records from neighboring territories. The vast majority of data result from field records obtained during the mapping project. The average number of taxa recorded for each of the c. 2650 Austrian grid cells (quadrants [Quadranten]: 5' longitude × 3' latitude, equaling approximately 6.3 × 5.5 km: grid can be downloaded as kmz-file or shape-file for Google Earth and GIS applications, respectively) is about 500 taxa, each grid cell having been investigated during field trips. Several mapping campaigns have been carried in neighboring countries, most prominently in the Autonomous Province of Bozen/Bolzano (South Tyrol) in Italy (plant and animal distribution maps for this region are available here). Ongoing and imminent work is directed towards further improvement of the database, e.g. by inclusion of the main bulk of available literature records.
The results of Floristic Mapping of Austria are regularly incorporated into the all–European but less detailed Atlas Florae Europaeae, which is published in instalments according to a taxonomic sequence. In the Helsinki–based international editorial committee, H. Niklfeld is acting as advisory member, and as the regional contributor for Austria. Distribution data have also substantially contributed to projects such as "Spatial and Structural Problems of the Alpine Region" (Raumalp) or "Tracking Surrogates for Intraspecific Diversity" (IntraBioDiv).
The aims of the updated checklist are
(i) to offer an up-to-date catalogue of vascular plants (indigenous and naturalised) for Central Europe, comprising in condensed form current taxonomy, correct nomenclature, and floristic information usable for various purposes, last not least also for application in nature conservation and legislation within Europe, and
(ii) to present a taxonomic basis meeting the requirements of the mapping scheme for the Central European flora (i.e., a taxonomic synthesis applicable to the national mapping projects involved) by accumulating and reconciling relevant data presented in national or regional floras.
The new edition will consider taxonomic progress of more than four decades as well as the increase in its geographic scope to cover in addition to Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Switzerland, as well as parts of Croatia, France and Italy also Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Vojvodina of Serbia and possibly also the Baltic states. Thus, it will bridge the gap between supra-regional taxonomic surveys of the Mediterranean (Med–Checklist) and of northern Europe (Flora Nordica). As in preceding editions, bibliographic references will explain the adopted taxonomy (in ambiguous cases), and the synonymy given enables to easily translate between different nomenclatures of the still diverging national standards. In ambiguous cases supplementary annotations may help to understand the taxonomic judgement presented.