Quantifying Landscape Structure: a Review of Landscape Indices and their Application to Forested Landscapes

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An important assumption of many environmental decisions is that some patterns or combinations of land cover are optimal or more preferable to others. Management plans frequently seek to change the structure of a landscape to realise particular management goals, because it is recognized that the spatial arrangement of elements in a land cover mosaic control the ecological processes which operate within it. This study reviews some of the tools available to those who need to describe and understand the spatial structure of landscapes. In particular, it examines the way in which quantitative measures, or indices, can be used and what contribution they might make to the management of forested landscapes in the UK. The paper discusses the way in which the different landscape indices can be used to assess the spatial implications of the various design guidelines that have been proposd to promote sustainable forms of forestry. It is concluded that while progress has been made in the development of a range of landscape pattern measures, and in our understanding of the factors constraining their use, there is a pressing need for further research into the relationship between landscape pattern and ecological process.



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