Landscape Trends in Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States Ecoregions
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Landscape pattern and composition metrics are potential indicators for broad-scale monitoring of change and for relating change to human and ecological processes. We used a probability sample of 20-km × 20-km sampling blocks to characterize landscape composition and pattern in five US ecoregions: the Middle Atlantic Coastal Plain, Southeastern Plains, Northern Piedmont, Piedmont, and Blue Ridge Mountains. Land use/land cover (LULC) data for five dates between 1972 and 2000 were obtained for each sample block. Analyses focused on quantifying trends in selected landscape pattern metrics by ecoregion and comparing trends in land cover proportions and pattern metrics among ecoregions. Repeated measures analysis of the landscape pattern documented a statistically significant trend in all five ecoregions towards a more fine-grained landscape from the early 1970s through 2000. The ecologically important forest cover class also became more fine-grained with time (i.e., more numerous and smaller forest patches). Trends in LULC, forest edge, and forest percent like adjacencies differed among ecoregions. These results suggest that ecoregions provide a geographically coherent way to regionalize the story of national land use and land cover change in the United States. This study provides new information on LULC change in the southeast United States. Previous studies of the region from the 1930s to the 1980s showed a decrease in landscape fragmentation and an increase in percent forest, while this study showed an increase in forest fragmentation and a loss of forest cover.