Landscape Diversity

TitleLandscape Diversity
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsPeters DC, Goslee S.C.
EditorLevin S.A.
Book TitleEncyclopedia of Biodiversity
PublisherAcademic Press
CityPrinceton, NJ
ARIS Log Number100644
Keywordsbiodiversity, dynamics, function, landscape ecology, maintenance, management, structure
AbstractWhile biodiversity is usually considered at the species level, maintenance of biodiversity requires management at higher levels of organization, particularly at the landscape scale. It is difficult to manage for each threatened species individually. Alternatively, management can focus on the ecosystems that contain these species, and on the landscapes where ecosystems are found. The relatively new discipline of landscape ecology provides insight into both landscape diversity and species diversity, and suggests a theoretical and practical basis for conservation planning. There are three basic characteristics of landscapes that affect their diversity: structure, function and dynamics. Structure is the most well-understood element of landscapes. It is also the most obvious- nearly any aerial view will show a mixture of different landforms, habitats, or vegetation types. The patch is the basic unit of landscape structure. The characteristics of patches and the spatial relationships among patches are important components of landscapes. The distributions of energy, materials, and species among patches differing in size, shape, abundance, and configuration are particularly important to patterns in diversity at the landscape scale. The other two elements of landscapes go beyond a description of spatial heterogeneity. Function is concerned with interactions among the spatial elements of a landscape, including flows of energy, materials, and species among patches. Landscape dynamics includes characteristics of both structure and function in order to examine changes in pattern and process over time. Conservation and management of biodiversity requires understanding of all three of these elements, including the effects of human activities on the system.