Special issue highlights cutting-edge research in landscape ecology

To understand the effects of landscape patterns, you first have to know how to measure them. A special issue of the journal Landscape Ecology assesses the state of the science of landscape pattern analysis. 

farm fields and forestThe ecology and sustainability of any landscape are influenced by the types and arrangement of people and ecosystems found within it. As landscapes change, measuring changes in these patterns is crucial for natural resource management, planning, and conservation applications. For this reason, developing the best methods for pattern measurement is a central research topic in the field of landscape ecology. Appearing three decades after the first scientific papers on landscape patterns were published, a special issue in the journal Landscape Ecology assesses the state of the science and suggests future research directions. Forest Service researchers from the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center organized the issue and contributed to four papers. “The special issue demonstrates that research on landscape patterns remains an essential and vibrant topic in the field,” said Jennifer Costanza, lead editor and faculty member at North Carolina State University. The issue reflects two parallel, complementary approaches in the development of landscape pattern measurement – the search for general methods that can be applied to a wide range of studies, and the search for specific methods tailored to a certain place or type of landscape change. Both of these methods in tandem will be important for comprehensive monitoring of landscapes. Scientists and land managers have access to more maps of the earth’s resources and at a faster rate than ever before; developing the best methods for analyzing them and monitoring change is a key role for landscape ecologists to play in ensuring that information can be understood and used.

Pictured: Managing landscapes requires measuring patterns that are relevant to many ecological processes. The diverse patterns evident in this landscape can be measured in a variety of ways to inform land managers. Photo by Larry Korhnak, Courtesy of Interface South.

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Contact: Jennifer Costanza, PhD, North Carolina State University, jkcostan@ncsu.edu; Kurt Riitters, Research Ecologist, Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center, kurt.h.riitters@usda.gov.

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