Landscape Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 371–383 | Cite as

Optimizing landscape selection for estimating relative effects of landscape variables on ecological responses

  • Jon Pasher
  • Scott W. Mitchell
  • Douglas J. King
  • Lenore Fahrig
  • Adam C. Smith
  • Kathryn E. Lindsay
Research Article


Empirical studies of the relative effects of landscape variables may compromise inferential strength with common approaches to landscape selection. We propose a methodology for landscape sample selection that is designed to overcome some common statistical pitfalls that may hamper estimates of relative effects of landscape variables on ecological responses. We illustrate our proposed methodology through an application aimed at quantifying the relationships between farmland heterogeneity and biodiversity. For this project, we required 100 study landscapes that represented the widest possible ranges of compositional and configurational farmland heterogeneity, where these two aspects of heterogeneity were quantified as crop cover diversity (Shannon diversity index) and mean crop field size, respectively. These were calculated at multiple spatial extents from a detailed map of the region derived through satellite image segmentation and classification. Potential study landscapes were then selected in a structured approach such that: (1) they represented the widest possible range of both heterogeneity variables, (2) they were not spatially autocorrelated, and (3) there was independence (no correlation) between the two heterogeneity variables, allowing for more precise estimates of the regression coefficients that reflect their independent effects. All selection criteria were satisfied at multiple extents surrounding the study landscapes, to allow for multi-scale analysis. Our approach to landscape selection should improve the inferential strength of studies estimating the relative effects of landscape variables, particularly those with a view to developing land management guidelines.


Site selection Experimental field design Landscape heterogeneity GIS Multi-scale analysis Landscape structure Landscape composition Landscape configuration 



This research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Strategic Project Grants program and the project was developed and enriched through interactions with our many research and agricultural sector partners. The Geomatics and Landscape Ecology Research Laboratory at Carleton University, which provided the interdisciplinary environment that fostered this work, was developed through contributions from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Innovation Trust, the Hamlin Family Fund, Environment Canada and Carleton University. Anna Pacheco and Thierry Fisette at Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada provided data and valuable guidance on this work, and Evan Seed at Environment Canada also contributed valuable advice.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jon Pasher
    • 1
    • 2
  • Scott W. Mitchell
    • 2
  • Douglas J. King
    • 2
  • Lenore Fahrig
    • 3
  • Adam C. Smith
    • 3
    • 4
  • Kathryn E. Lindsay
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Wildlife & Landscape Science, Environment CanadaNational Wildlife Research CentreOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Geomatics and Landscape Ecology LaboratoryCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Department of Biology, Geomatics and Landscape Ecology LaboratoryCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  4. 4.Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment CanadaNational Wildlife Research CentreOttawaCanada

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