In mathematics, a volume form on a differentiable manifold is a nowhere-vanishing top-dimensionial form (i.e., a differential form of top degree). Thus on a manifold M of dimension n, a volume form is an n-form, a section of the line bundle Ωn(M) = Λn(T∗M), that is nowhere equal to zero. A manifold has a volume form if and only if it is orientable. An orientable manifold has infinitely many volume forms, since multiplying a volume form by a non-vanishing function yields another volume form. On non-orientable manifolds, one may instead define the weaker notion of a density.
A volume form provides a means to define the integral of a function on a differentiable manifold. In other words, a volume form gives rise to a measure with respect to which functions can be integrated by the appropriate Lebesgue integral. The absolute value of a volume form is a volume element, which is also known variously as a twisted volume form or pseudo-volume form. It also defines a measure, but exists on any differentiable manifold, orientable or not.
Kähler manifolds, being complex manifolds, are naturally oriented, and so possess a volume form. More generally, the nth exterior power of the symplectic form on a symplectic manifold is a volume form. Many classes of manifolds have canonical volume forms: they have extra structure which allows the choice of a preferred volume form. Oriented Riemannian manifolds and pseudo-Riemannian manifolds have an associated canonical volume form.
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