, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 0198-0214

Lakes, Wetlands, and Streams as Predictors of Land Use/Cover Distribution

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The importance of the surrounding landscape to aquatic ecosystems has been well established. Most research linking aquatic ecosystems to landscapes has focused on the one-way effect of land on water. However, to understand fully the complex interactions between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, aquatic ecosystems must be seen not only as receptors of human modification of the landscape, but also as potential drivers of these modifications. We hypothesized that the presence of aquatic ecosystems influences the spatial distribution of human land use/cover of the nearby landscape (≤1 km) and that this influence has changed through time from the 1930s to the 1990s. To test this hypothesis, we compared the distribution of residential, agricultural, and forested land use/cover around aquatic ecosystems (lakes, wetlands, and streams) to the overall regional land use/cover proportion in an area in southeast Michigan, USA; we also compared the distribution of land use/cover around county roads/highway and towns (known determinants of many land use/cover patterns) to the regional proportion. We found that lakes, wetlands, and streams were strongly associated with the distribution of land use/cover, that each ecosystem type showed different patterns, and that the magnitude of the association was at least as strong as the association with human features. We also found that the area closest to aquatic ecosystems (<500 m) was more strongly associated with land use/cover distribution than areas further away. Finally, we found that the strength of the association between aquatic ecosystems and land use/cover increased from 1938 to 1995, although the overall patterns were similar through time. Our results show that a more complete understanding is needed of the role of aquatic ecosystems on the distribution of land use/cover.