Modern conceptions divide the scientific branch of plant ecology into the following areas:
- Stress physiology (botany) . She is primarily concerned with the effects of abiotic factors that affect the cell biological and molecular level of a plant. Light, temperature ( cold stress , heat stress ), oxygen deficiency , water deficiency , salt exposure , heavy metals and biotic stress such as animal consumption , infections or allelopathy are researchedas stressors . In many cases, these factors are applied to specific model organisms such as thale cress examined.
- The autecology considered the effects of abiotic and biotic factors on the whole plant organism. Fields of work are, for example, the heat, water, nutrient and carbon balance of a plant. Autecological research is carried out both in the laboratory and, in many cases, through measurements in the field.
- The vegetation science deals with the vegetation cover as such. As synecology, it considers the processes at the level of plant populations or communities, which is why plant sociology provides essential methodological bases. Further research contents of vegetation science include the historical development of vegetation units, the dynamic spatial and temporal behavior of populations ( succession theory ). In addition, applied aspects, for example for agriculture and forestry, are an essential branch of vegetation ecology.
- As an integrating branch of plant ecology, ecosystem science is considered, which tries to research the interaction of individual organisms and vegetation with their biodiversity. Examples of this are the effects of the structure of vegetation such as the " aerodynamic roughness " of the surface of a forest or the influence of vegetation on the climate of an area. Other research aspects are soil acidification and forest damage, the effect of deciduous and coniferous forests on ecosystem processes or the effects of symbioses such as mycorrhiza or nodule bacteria .
The research contents of vegetation ecology and ecosystem science coincide in wide areas with those of geobotany .
- Schulze, ED, Beck, E. and K. Müller-Hohenstein (2002): Plant ecology. 846 S. Spectrum Academic Publishing House. Heidelberg-Berlin. ISBN 3-8274-0987-X