, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 19-28

Neutral models for the analysis of broad-scale landscape pattern

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Abstract

The relationship between a landscape process and observed patterns can be rigorously tested only if the expected pattern in the absence of the process is known. We used methods derived from percolation theory to construct neutral landscape models,i.e., models lacking effects due to topography, contagion, disturbance history, and related ecological processes. This paper analyzes the patterns generated by these models, and compares the results with observed landscape patterns. The analysis shows that number, size, and shape of patches changes as a function of p, the fraction of the landscape occupied by the habitat type of interest, and m, the linear dimension of the map. The adaptation of percolation theory to finite scales provides a baseline for statistical comparison with landscape data. When USGS land use data (LUDA) maps are compared to random maps produced by percolation models, significant differences in the number, size distribution, and the area/perimeter (fractal dimension) indices of patches were found. These results make it possible to define the appropriate scales at which disturbance and landscape processes interact to affect landscape patterns.