Partnership for Landscape Pattern Analysis: A Consortium without Walls

fragmentation.jpgThe informal Center for Landscape Pattern Analysis was formed over a decade ago to bring people together to work on interesting problems in landscape ecology. Members include research scientists from the USDA Forest Service, the US Environmental Protection Agency, North Carolina State University, and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. While collaborative research forms the bulk of the partners’ involvement, members use research results to analyze forest and landscape patterns in support of their own Agency’s resource monitoring and assessment programs. Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center research ecologist Kurt Riitters, a founding member, emphasizes that the research priority is to develop tools and techniques that can be applied now, using readily available databases. “Landscape pattern analysis is about adding value to the multimillion dollar investments others have made in satellites and mapping,” he says. “We are practical – we don’t ask questions that require more and better data; instead we ask questions that the available data can answer, revealing patterns that are not visually apparent. It turns out that the answers are quite stunning.”

Above right: Forested areas are fragmented by development. Photo by Larry Korhnak, www.interfacesouth.org.

Among themselves the team members have developed a supercomputing headhouse—an infrastructure based in hardware, procedures, and computer code that allows them to process national and global landcover maps composed of tens of billions of pixels quickly and efficiently. The information generated can, in turn, be fed into other process models.

interior_forest_loss.pngThe original partnership is now part of the Eastern Threat Center, and has come to represent the primary source for nationally consistent forest fragmentation analyses in the Forest Service. Forest fragmentation and other aspects of landscape patterns are now routinely reported through the Resources Planning Act (RPA) assessments, Forest Sustainability (Montréal Process) assessments, Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) resource reports, and Forest Health Monitoring (FHM) national technical reports. In addition, the research has contributed to the “Forests on the Edge” and “Open Space” initiatives, and results have been used by several State Agencies. Results have also appeared in the Official Atlas of the United States, the H.J. Heinz Center’s State of the Nation’s Ecosystems, and the global Millennium Assessment.

Above left: Landscape pattern analyses reveal total forest loss (top map) and interior forest loss (bottom map) between 2001 and 2006, shown in shades of blue (Riitters and Wickham, 2012). Click image to enlarge.

The Eastern Threat Center fully supports this partnership and its goals as originally defined and actively advances this line of research. For more information, visit the Eastern Threat Center landscape pattern assessment project webpage, or contact Kurt Riitters, Eastern Threat Center research ecologist, at kriitters@fs.fed.us or 919-549-4015.

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