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The concept of landscape ecology

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Underlying theories.
  3. Interpreting landscape pattern.
    1. Issues of scale.
    2. Data constraints.
  4. A key challenge for landscape ecology: reducing fragmentation.
  5. Population isolation and barriers to movement.
  6. The role of corridors.
  7. Survival within a patch.
  8. Woodland planting to counteract fragmentation.
  9. Landscape ecology and forestry.
    1. Fragmentation.
    2. Edge effects.
    3. Connectivity.
    4. Disturbance.
  10. Conclusion.

Landscape ecology is an emerging discipline that aims to understand the environmental processes and patterns in?uencing habitats and species beyond the site level. It arose independently in the latter part of the twentieth century in central and Eastern Europe and in North America as geographers, planners, and ecologists began to push the boundaries of their subject interests in the search for integrated approaches to land management of sensitive areas. They combined intellectual forces in the International Association of Landscape Ecology (IALE), formed in 1982. Landscape ecology is based on the initial premise that a landscape can be viewed as a series of patches within an overall background matrix; taken together, patches and matrix make up a heterogeneous landscape mosaic. The signi?cance for forestry is that it can take the focus up a level from the management of stands within a forest to forests within a landscape. Each forest or woodland can be viewed as a patch, within a matrix of other land use. The power of landscape ecology is that its principles can apply at vastly different scales, depending on the landscape or the research question. It has been used equally effectively by natural resource managers in conservation planning of large protected areas such as watersheds or national parks and by those undertaking local-scale restoration projects consisting of a few sites. In Europe the challenge is often to mitigate the effects of development, but landscape ecology can be used more proactively to design for conservation and related bene?ts.

[...] If the surrounding matrix is an adverse environment for species dispersal, the landscape is described as ?resistant.' It is unlikely that the matrix is made up of one land use and so this heterogeneity must be analyzed to identify the key contributors to resistance where feasible. Resistance can potentially be improved by altering the intensity of the land use adjacent to the forest or by planting different vegetation between wooded patches, but often such intervention is out with the scope of a forest manager. [...]


[...] This concept has been widely applied to habitat fragments on the assumption that they function like islands surrounded by a ?sea' of more hostile environment. However, it has not generally proved to be a useful tool for predicting species diversity in habitat patches within a matrix of other land uses. This is because the community of species in a patch of habitat will be strongly in?uenced by the nature of the landscape around it and the sorts of species that inhabit that landscape. [...]


[...] To some extent, this single-species approach is the simplest application of landscape ecology but its success is still dependent on quality data. At an early stage in a landscape ecological study the landscape boundary must be de?ned. There are parallels with the ecosystem approach the concept of an ecosystem is itself abstract and in some respects it is more straightforward to identify the boundaries of a landscape of interest, acknowledging that these might be arbitrarily in?uenced by land- ownership or management. [...]

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