Landscape pattern assessment

PARTNERS: USDA Forest Service Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment Research; USDA Forest Service Forest Health Monitoring Program; US Environmental Protection Agency Office of Research and Development; European Commission Joint Research Centre

SUMMARY: Landscape changes such as forest fragmentation and urbanization have direct and indirect impacts, some good and some bad, on a wide range of ecological processes. An important determinant of ecological impacts is the spatial pattern of natural resources within landscapes, particularly in relation to human land uses such as farming, infrastructure, and housing. Therefore, determining the status and trends in landscape patterns can be useful for understanding the condition of natural resources and potential risks posed by human activities. Furthermore, landscape changes over time can have different impacts depending on their spatial patterns in relation to extant patterns of resources and human land uses. This project develops novel approaches to landscape pattern analysis and applies them at a national scale to support natural resource inventory, monitoring, and assessment. Current research focuses on: (1) methods of temporal change analysis appropriate for land cover maps derived from remote sensing; (2) methods to quantify and prioritize ecological risks posed by the spatial patterns of human activities; and (3) integration of in situ forest inventory data and remotely-sensed landscape pattern data. This project also produces national land cover pattern assessments in support of the Forest Health Monitoring Program, the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program, the Resource Planning Act Assessment, the National Report on Sustainable Forests, and related Agency and inter-Agency programs at national and global scales.

EFETAC’s ROLE: This project is supported by Eastern Threat Center research and funding.

STATUS: Ongoing

PROGRESS: This project has contributed analyses and interpretations of various aspects of land cover patterns to over 15 Forest Service national reports and assessments over the past 20 years, as well as to several national and global assessments prepared by other Federal Agencies and non-governmental organizations. The international cooperative aspects of the project have contributed to better harmonization of forest pattern assessment protocols globally.

The research has helped to establish both morphological spatial pattern analysis and multi-scale image convolution analysis as fundamental tools for landscape pattern analysis. The research has established landscape pattern as an essential component of forest resource analysis in the Forest Service.

The research and assessments have been described in more than 50 publications available online in the Forest Service Research & Development Tree Search database.

As of 2017, the most recent national Forest Service reports containing information from this project include: 2015 Forest Health National Status, Trends and Analysis Report; 2015 Resources Planning Act Assessment Update; the 2015 Forest Sustainability Report; and the 2017 Forest Resources of the United States. As of 2018, the computer tools and techniques developed during this project are freely available in the GuidosToolbox (see links below).


USDA Forest Service Research & Development International Forest Science

USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis Program

USDA Forest Service Resources Planning Act (RPA) Assessment

USDA Forest Service National Report on Sustainable Forests

USDA Forest Service Forest Health Monitoring National Technical Reports

USDA Forest Service Open Space Conservation

US EPA Report on the Environment

European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Forest Pattern Research

Partnership for Landscape Pattern Analysis

Article about GuidosToolbox from European Journal of Remote Sensing

GuidosToolbox website and software download

Related articles from CompassLive:

Kurt Riitters, Eastern Threat Center Research Ecologist and Team Leader, or (919) 549-4015

Updated June 2018

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