Environmental security, as the opposite of environmental fragility (vulnerability), is multilayered, multi-scale and complex, existing in both the objective realm of biophysics and society, and the subjective realm of individual human perception. For ecological risk assessments (ERAs), the relevant objects of environmental security are social-ecological landscapes (SELs). ERAs, in this case, are less precise than traditional ERAs, but provide results that are more comprehensive and understandable by stakeholders. In this paper, we detect and quantify the scales and spatial patterns of human land use as ecosystem disturbances at different hierarchical levels in a panarchy of SELs by using a conceptual framework that characterizes multi-scale disturbance patterns exhibited on satellite imagery over a four-year time period in Apulia (South Italy). Multi-scale measurements of the composition and spatial configuration of disturbance are the basis for evaluating fragility through multiscale disturbance profiles, and the identification of scale mismatches revealed by trajectories diverging from the global profile to local spatial patterns. Scale mismatches of disturbances in space and time determine the role of land use as a disturbance source or sink, and may govern the triggering of landscape changes affecting regional biodiversity. This study clarifies the potential roles for environmental security of natural areas and permanent cultivations (olive groves and vineyards) in buffering Mediterranean landscape disturbance dynamics and compensating for disturbances across the whole panarchy of Apulia, allowing for potential landscape planning of disturbance.
Zurlini, Giovanni; Petrosillo, Irene; Zaccarelli, Nicola; Riitters, Kurt. 2008. Environmental security as related to scale mismatches of disturbance patterns in a panarchy of social-ecological landscapes. Use of Landscape Sciences for the Assessment of Environmental Security, 383-398