, Volume 15, Issue 7, pp 591-601

An aggregation index (AI) to quantify spatial patterns of landscapes

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There is often need to measure aggregation levels of spatial patterns within a single map class in landscape ecological studies. The contagion index (CI), shape index (SI), and probability of adjacency of the same class (Qi), all have certain limits when measuring aggregation of spatial patterns. We have developed an aggregation index (AI) that is class specific and independent of landscape composition. AI assumes that a class with the highest level of aggregation (AI =1) is comprised of pixels sharing the most possible edges. A class whose pixels share no edges (completely disaggregated) has the lowest level of aggregation (AI =0). AI is similar to SI and Qi, but it calculates aggregation more precisely than the latter two. We have evaluated the performance of AI under varied levels of (1) aggregation, (2) number of patches, (3) spatial resolutions, and (4) real species distribution maps at various spatial scales. AI was able to produce reasonable results under all these circumstances. Since it is class specific, it is more precise than CI, which measures overall landscape aggregation. Thus, AI provides a quantitative basis to correlate the spatial pattern of a class with a specific process. Since AI is a ratio variable, map units do not affect the calculation. It can be compared between classes from the same or different landscapes, or even the same classes from the same landscape under different resolutions.