Landscape Ecology

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 51–63

Spatial organisation of landscapes and its function in semi-arid woodlands, Australia

  • John A. Ludwig
  • David J. Tongway


The spatial organisation of three major landscape types within the semi-arid woodlands of eastern Australia was studied by a detailed analysis of gradient-oriented transects (gradsects). The aim was to characterise the spatial organisation of each landscape, and to account for that organisation in functional terms related to the differential concentration of scarce resources by identifiable processes. Terrain, vegetation and soils data were collected along each gradsect. Boundary analysis was used to identify the types of landscape units at a range of scales. Soil analyses were used to determine the degree of differential concentration of nutrients within these units, and to infer the role of fluvial and aeolian processes in maintaining them. All three major landscape systems were found to be highly organised systems with distinctive resource-rich units or patches separated by more open, resource-poor zones. At the largest scale, distinct groves of trees were separated by open intergroves. At smaller-scales, individual trees, large shrubs, clumps of shrubs, fallen logs and clumps of grasses constituted discrete patches dispersed across the landscape. Our soil analyses confirmed that these patches act as sinks by filtering and concentrating nutrients lost from source areas (e.g., intergroves). We suggest that fluvial runoff-runon and aeolian saltation-deposition are the physical processes involved in these concentration effects, and in building and maintaining patches; biological activities also maintain patches. This organisation of patches as dispersed resource filters (at different scales) has the overall function of conserving limited resources within semi-arid landscape systems. Understanding the role of landscape patchiness in conserving scarce resources has important implications for managing these landscapes for sustainable land use, and for the rehabilitation of landscapes already degraded.


Landscapes organisation patches processes scale function semi-arid woodlands 


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Copyright information

© SPB Academic Publishing bv 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • John A. Ludwig
    • 1
  • David J. Tongway
    • 1
  1. 1.CSIRO Division of Wildlife and EcologyLynehamAustralia

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