Each day the sunrises and we begin our daily grind, we inevitably will be in touch with the ecology that surround us. When we run the water to brush our teeth and take our showers, when we get in our vehicles and drive to work, when we come home and check our email on our computers, when we call our friends on our cell phones, and when we dispose of our trash throughout our day.
Ecology is the study of our earth – it’s relationships with organisms and their environment, and how those relationships affect the planet. There is a lot we can do as a species to help our environment sustain itself. And a great way to begin is to get educated.
The Study of Patterns
Landscape ecology, as the name implies, is the study of landscapes; specifically, the study of landscape patterns, the interactions among the elements of pattern, how patterns and interactions change over time, and the application of these principles in the formulation and solving of real-world problems.
Thus, landscape ecology is defined best by its focus on spatial heterogeneity and pattern; specifically, how to characterize it, where it comes from, why it matters, how it changes through time, and how we manage it.
It’s All About the Relationship
Landscapes are spatially heterogeneous geographic areas characterized by diverse interacting patches or ecosystems, ranging from relatively natural terrestrial and aquatic systems such as forests, grasslands and lakes to human-dominated environments including agricultural and urban settings.
The most salient characteristics of landscape ecology are its emphasis on the relationship among pattern, process and scale and its focus on broad-scale ecological and environmental issues. These necessitate the coupling between biophysical and socioeconomic sciences.
Key research topics in landscape ecology include ecological flows in landscape mosaics, land use and land cover change, scaling, relating landscape pattern analysis with ecological processes, and landscape conservation and sustainability.
4 Core Themes
To sum it up, landscape ecology can be portrayed by several of its core themes:
• the spatial pattern or structure of landscapes, ranging from wilderness to cities,
• the relationship between pattern and process in landscapes,
• the relationship of human activity to landscape pattern, process and change,
• the effect of scale and disturbance on the landscape
Here are some important definitions that you need to be acquainted with in order to understand the ecology of landscape:
• Landscape: It is an area that consists of more than one ecosystem.
• Ecosystem: A group of various populations in one area and their interactions among each other and with their environment.
• Heterogeneity: A landscape with many different ecological patterns and structures.
• Pattern: The ordered contents of a landscape.
• Structure: It is the definition of the size and distribution of pattern.
• Scale: It is the representation of actual distances and/or time frame of events.
• Patch: A homogeneous area different from other areas around it. A patch is the lowest ranked unit of a landscape.
• Mosaic: It is a series of patches connected together directly or via corridors.
• Corridor: A particular kind of patch connecting two separate patches.
• Edge: In ecology, an edge is the area on the perimeter of a patch.
• Boundary: The area including the edges of two adjacent, intersecting patches.
• Disturbance: It is an event that alters the process of change or stability of a patch or a mosaic of patches.
• Fragmentation: The cutting and breaking up of a large patch into many smaller ones separated by a new and different kind of patch.
Landscape Ecology is not really an independent self sufficient field of science. It is a multidisciplinary field within ecology, geography, forestry, agriculture, urban development and the new field of eco-tourism.
The most important concept to remember though is that: Landscape ecology deals with a changing and developing vibrant environment that needs constant monitoring and changes in management to suit newly developing situations.
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