Landscape Ecology

, Volume 3, Issue 3–4, pp 153–162 | Cite as

Effects of changing spatial scale on the analysis of landscape pattern

  • Monica G. Turner
  • Robert V. O'Neill
  • Robert H. Gardner
  • Bruce T. Milne


The purpose of this study was to observe the effects of changing the grain (the first level of spatial resolution possible with a given data set) and extent (the total area of the study) of landscape data on observed spatial patterns and to identify some general rules for comparing measures obtained at different scales. Simple random maps, maps with contagion (i.e., clusters of the same land cover type), and actual landscape data from USGS land use (LUDA) data maps were used in the analyses. Landscape patterns were compared using indices measuring diversity (H), dominance (D) and contagion (C). Rare land cover types were lost as grain became coarser. This loss could be predicted analytically for random maps with two land cover types, and it was observed in actual landscapes as grain was increased experimentally. However, the rate of loss was influenced by the spatial pattern. Land cover types that were clumped disappeared slowly or were retained with increasing grain, whereas cover types that were dispersed were lost rapidly. The diversity index decreased linearly with increasing grain size, but dominance and contagion did not show a linear relationship. The indices D and C increased with increasing extent, but H exhibited a variable response. The indices were sensitive to the number (m) of cover types observed in the data set and the fraction of the landscape occupied by each cover type (Pk); both m and Pkvaried with grain and extent. Qualitative and quantitative changes in measurements across spatial scales will differ depending on how scale is defined. Characterizing the relationships between ecological measurements and the grain or extent of the data may make it possible to predict or correct for the loss of information with changes in spatial scale.


spatial scale grain extent resolution landscape ecology diversity dominance contagion spatial pattern 


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Copyright information

© SPB Academic Publishing bv 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Monica G. Turner
    • 1
  • Robert V. O'Neill
    • 1
  • Robert H. Gardner
    • 1
  • Bruce T. Milne
    • 2
  1. 1.Environmental Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

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