, Volume 75, Issue 1, pp 91–102

Fractal geometry: a tool for describing spatial patterns of plant communities

  • Michael W. Palmer

DOI: 10.1007/BF00044631

Cite this article as:
Palmer, M.W. Vegetatio (1988) 75: 91. doi:10.1007/BF00044631


Vegetation is a fractal because it exhibits variation over a continuum of scales. The spatial structure of sandrim, bryophyte, pocosin, suburban lawn, forest tree, and forest understory communities was analyzed with a combination of ordination and geostatistical methods. The results either suggest appropriate quadrat sizes and spacings for vegetation research, or they reveal that a sampling design compatible with classical statistics is impossible. The fractal dimensions obtained from these analyses are generally close to 2, implying weak spatial dependence. The fractal dimension is not a constant function of scale, implying that patterns of spatial variation at one scale cannot be extrapolated to other scales.


GeostatisticsGradient analysisHeterogeneityHomogeneityOrdination

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael W. Palmer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA