Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Kenneth B. Jr. Pierce; Todd Lookingbill; Dean Urban
    Date: 2005
    Source: Landscape Ecology. 20: 137-147
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    PDF: Download Publication  (949 KB)


    Radiation is one of the primary influences on vegetation composition and spatial pattern. Topographic orientation is often used as a proxy for relative radiation load due to its effects on evaporative demand and local temperature. Common methods for incorporating this information (i.e., site measures of slope and aspect) fail to include daily or annual changes in solar orientation and shading effects from local topography. As a result, these static measures do not incorporate the level of spatial and temporal heterogeneity required to examine vegetation patterns at the landscape level. We developed a widely applicable method for estimating potential relative radiation (PRR) using digital elevation data and a widely used geographic information system (Arc/Info). We found significant differences among four increasingly comprehensive radiation proxies. Our GIS-based proxy compared well with estimates from more data-intensive and computationally rigorous radiation models. We note that several recent studies have not found strong correlations between vegetation pattern and landscape-scale differences in radiation. We suggest that these findings may be due to the use of proxies that were not accurately capturing variability in radiation, and we recommend PRR or similar measures for use in future vegetation analyses.

    Publication Notes

    • Visit PNW's Publication Request Page to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Pierce, Kenneth B. Jr.; Lookingbill, Todd; Urban, Dean. 2005. A simple method for estimating potential relative radiation (PRR) for landscape-vegetation analysis. Landscape Ecology. 20: 137-147


    aspect, DEM, GIS, solar insolation, species-environment interactions, topographic effects, vegetation distribution

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page