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Determining landscape extent for succession and disturbance simulation modeling

Posted date: November 07, 2007
Publication Year: 
Publication Series: 
Miscellaneous Publication
Source: Landscape Ecology. 22: 993-1006.


Dividing regions into manageable landscape units presents special problems in landscape ecology and land management. Ideally, a landscape should be large enough to capture a broad range of vegetation, environmental and disturbance dynamics, but small enough to be useful for focused management objectives. The purpose of this study was to determine the optimal landscape size to summarize ecological processes for two large land areas in the southwestern United States. We used a vegetation and disturbance dynamics model, LANDSUMv4, to simulate a set of nine scenarios involving systematically varied topography, map resolution, and model parameterizations of fire size and fire frequency. Spatial input data were supplied by the LANDscape FIRE Management Planning System (LANDFIRE) prototype project, an effort that will provide comprehensive and scientifically credible mid-scale data to support the National Fire Plan. We analyzed output from 2,000 year simulations to determine the thresholds of landscape condition based on the variability of burned area and dominant vegetation coverage. Results show that optimal landscape extent using burned area variability is approximately 100 km2 depending on topography, map resolution, and model parameterization. Variability of dominant vegetation area is generally higher and the optimal landscape sizes are larger in comparison to those features determined from burned area. Using the LANDFIRE project as a case study, we determined landscape size and map resolution for a large mapping project, and showed that optimal landscape size depends upon geographical, ecological, and management context.


Karau, Eva C.; Keane, Robert E. 2007. Determining landscape extent for succession and disturbance simulation modeling. Landscape Ecology. 22: 993-1006.