Spatial scaling of core and dominant forest cover in the Upper Mississippi and Illinois River floodplains, USA
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- De Jager, N.R. & Rohweder, J.J. Landscape Ecol (2011) 26: 697. doi:10.1007/s10980-011-9594-2
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Different organisms respond to spatial structure in different terms and across different spatial scales. As a consequence, efforts to reverse habitat loss and fragmentation through strategic habitat restoration ought to account for the different habitat density and scale requirements of various taxonomic groups. Here, we estimated the local density of floodplain forest surrounding each of ~20 million 10-m forested pixels of the Upper Mississippi and Illinois River floodplains by using moving windows of multiple sizes (1–100 ha). We further identified forest pixels that met two local density thresholds: ‘core’ forest pixels were nested in a 100% (unfragmented) forested window and ‘dominant’ forest pixels were those nested in a >60% forested window. Finally, we fit two scaling functions to declines in the proportion of forest cover meeting these criteria with increasing window length for 107 management-relevant focal areas: a power function (i.e. self-similar, fractal-like scaling) and an exponential decay function (fractal dimension depends on scale). The exponential decay function consistently explained more variation in changes to the proportion of forest meeting both the ‘core’ and ‘dominant’ criteria with increasing window length than did the power function, suggesting that elevation, soil type, hydrology, and human land use constrain these forest types to a limited range of scales. To examine these scales, we transformed the decay constants to measures of the distance at which the probability of forest meeting the ‘core’ and ‘dominant’ criteria was cut in half (S1/2, m). S1/2 for core forest was typically between ~55 and ~95 m depending on location along the river, indicating that core forest cover is restricted to extremely fine scales. In contrast, half of all dominant forest cover was lost at scales that were typically between ~525 and 750 m, but S1/2 was as long as 1,800 m. S1/2 is a simple measure that (1) condenses information derived from multi-scale analyses, (2) allows for comparisons of the amount of forest habitat available to species with different habitat density and scale requirements, and (3) can be used as an index of the spatial continuity of habitat types that do not scale fractally.