, Volume 18, Issue 6, pp 575-590

Landscape changes and ecological studies in agricultural regions, Québec, Canada

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Most landscape definitions in the western world are based on soil, climatic, or physiographic features and do not integrate humans as an integral part of the landscape. We present an approach where landscape types have been delineated in southern Québec, Canada based on current land use where anthropogenic and agricultural activities are concentrated as a practical application of the holistic approach in landscape definition. Landsat-TM satellite images were classified and the 27 habitat classes were regrouped into 5 general land cover classes (cash crop, dairy farming, forest, anthropogenic, wetlands) and overlaid onto soil landscape polygons to characterize natural boundary units. Cluster analyses were used to aggregate these polygons into seven agricultural types of land scape forming a gradient from urban and high-intensity cash crop farming activities to landscapes dominated by a mosaic of agriculture and forested areas. Multivariate analyses of raw data and of socio-economic and farming practices variables were used to describe the defined types of landscape and these were projected over three established land classification systems of southern Québec (Canadian ecoregions, North American Bird Conservation Initiative regions and Corn Heat Unit regions) to compare their similarity in terms of land cover and for planning of future ecological studies. Because agricultural landscapes are highly dynamic, they are bound to undergo changes in the near future. Our landscape delineation may serve as an experimental setup where land scape dynamics and wildlife populations and community structures could be monitored. Because the information we used to delineate and characterize agricultural landscape types is readily available in other countries, our approach could easily be adapted to similar data sources under and a wide variety of landscape types.

This revised version was published online in July 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.