Landscape Ecology

Martin Hermy

in Ecology

ISBN: 9780199830060
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:
Landscape Ecology

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  • Applied Ecology (Environmental Science)
  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Plant Ecology
  • Zoology and Animal Sciences


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Landscape ecology is well integrated into the discipline of ecology and focuses on the reciprocal interactions between pattern and ecological processes. Despite the fact that these interactions have long been recognized, the term as we know it now did not appear until the first half of the 20th century (see Historical Background). Above all, landscape ecology is broadly interdisciplinary. Although the content gradually changes, landscape ecology is popular and will remain so as long as there is climate change and the global influence of humans. Most of us have an intuitive understanding of the term “landscape.” We think of a piece of land we can view, usually from a prominent point. Typically, it is a changing mixture (a “mosaic”) of land cover units such as farms, arable fields, grasslands, forests, marshes, water bodies, and settlements, which may be highly interconnected or dissected by linear elements such as roads, power lines, hedgerows, and rivers. Organisms—animals and plants—use these landscape elements as refuges, stepping stones, or corridors. The focus of landscape ecology is on the distribution patterns of landscape elements or ecosystems, on the flow of animals, plants, energy, nutrients, and water among them, and thus on the functions of these units and ecological changes in the landscape over time. Initially, research was largely descriptive (e.g., how land cover changed over time) and a lot of energy was invested in the search for suitable landscape metrics. However, it gradually moved more toward functioning in terms of ecological processes and organisms. Almost at the same time, landscape modeling became more prominent; the advent of geo-informatics (e.g., GIS) gave it a spectacular boost. However, the debate on scale—the spatial or temporal dimension of an object or process—remains open. New themes such as landscape genetics (see also the Oxford Bibliographies article on Conservation Genetics) made their way in the late 20th and early 21st centuries with the growing availability of molecular genetic tools, combined with existing or new statistical tools and powerful computers. Until now climate change has received relatively little attention from landscape ecology. Landscape ecology is also becoming increasingly relevant for applied ecological sciences, such as ecological restoration, conservation biology, invasive species biology, and ecosystem management (see the Oxford Bibliographies article on Applied Ecology).

Article.  6097 words. 

Subjects: Applied Ecology (Environmental Science) ; Ecology and Conservation ; Plant Ecology ; Zoology and Animal Sciences

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