Landscape Ecology

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 107–113 | Cite as

Spatial scale influence on longterm temporal patterns of a semi-arid grassland

  • Samuel D. Fuhlendorf
  • Fred E. Smeins


Longterm (45 years) temporal data were used to assess the influence of spatial scale on temporal patterns of a semi-arid west Texas grassland. Temporal basal area dynamics of common curlymesquite (Hilaria belangeri (Steud.) Nash) collected from permanent plots within two areas that were released from disturbance (longterm overgrazing and drought), were evaluated at two spatial scales (quadrat, site). Wiens (1989) proposed hypotheses to characterize the influence of scale on variability, predictability, and equilibrium. These hypotheses were tested for this grassland and temporal patterns observed were different for each spatial scale. The large scale (site) was characterized by low variation between units, high variation within units, high potential predictability, and possible movement toward a fluctuating but relatively stable or equilibrial state. At the small scale (quadrat), variation between units was high, predictability low, and there was no indication of movement toward a stable state; chaotic behavior may be expressed at this scale although the length of the temporal record may not be sufficient to evaluate this phenomenon.


scaling temporal patterns equilibrium stability succession predictability variability grassland savannah chaos ecological scale vegetation dynamics 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bedward, M., Keith, D.A. and Pressey, R.L. 1992. Homogeneity analysis: Assessing the utility of classifications and maps of natural resources. Aust. J. Ecol. 17: 133–139.Google Scholar
  2. Butler, J.L. and Briske, D.D. 1988. Population structure and tiller demography of the bunchgrassSchizachyrium scoparium in response to herbivory. Oikos 51: 306–312.Google Scholar
  3. Carlile, D.W., Skalski, J.R., Batker, J.E., Thomas, J.M. and Cullinan, V.I. 1989. Determination of ecological scale. Landscape Ecology 2: 203–213.Google Scholar
  4. Costanza, R. and Maxwell, T. 1994. Resolution and predictability: An approach to the scaling problem. Landscape Ecology 9: 47–57.Google Scholar
  5. Crawley, M.J. 1990. The population dynamics of plants.In Population Regulation and Dynamics, Proc. A Royal Society Discussion Meeting. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond., G. Britain. Edited by M.P. Hassell and R.M. May.Google Scholar
  6. Cullinan, V.I. and Thomas, J.M. 1992. A comparison of quantitative methods for examining landscape pattern and scale. Landscape Ecology 7: 211–227.Google Scholar
  7. Gleick, J. 1987. Chaos: Making a new science. Viking. New York, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  8. Greg-Smith, P. 1964. Quantitative plant ecology. Second edition. Butterworths, London, England.Google Scholar
  9. Hastings, A., Ham, C.L., Ellner, S., Turchin, P. and Godfray, H.C.J. 1993. Chaos in ecology: Is mother nature a strange attractor? Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 24: 1–33.Google Scholar
  10. Hatch, S.L., Ghadi, K.N. and Brown, L.E. 1990. Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Texas. TX Agr. Exp. St. MP-1655, College Station TX.Google Scholar
  11. Klijn, F. and Udo de Haes, H.A. 1994. A hierarchical approach to ecosystems and its implications for ecological land classification. Landscape Ecology 9: 89–104.Google Scholar
  12. Levin, S.A. 1992. The problem of pattern and scale in ecology. Ecology 73: 1943–1967.Google Scholar
  13. Menge, B.A. and Olson, A.M. 1990. Role of scale and environmental factors in the regulation of community structure. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 5: 52–57.Google Scholar
  14. O'Neill, R.V., DeAngelis, D.L., Waide, J.B. and Allen, T.F.H. 1986. A hierarchical concept of ecosystems. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.Google Scholar
  15. O'Neill, R.V., Johnson, A.R. and King, A.W. 1989. A hierarchical framework for the analysis of scale. Landscape Ecology 3: 193–205.Google Scholar
  16. O'Neill, R.V., Turner, S.J., Cullinan, V.I., Coffin, D.P., Cook, T., Conley, W., Brunt, J., Thomas, J.M., Conley, M.R. and Gosz, J. 1991. Multiple landscape scales: An intersite comparison. Landscape Ecology 5: 137–144.Google Scholar
  17. Rahel, F.J. 1990. The hierarchical nature of community persistence: a problem of scale. Amer. Natur. 136: 328–344.Google Scholar
  18. Schaffer, W.M. and Kot, M. 1985. Do strange attractors govern ecological systems. Bioscience 35: 342–350.Google Scholar
  19. Smeins, F.E., Taylor, T.W. and Merrill, L.B. 1976. Vegetation of a 25 year exclosure on the Edwards Plateau, Texas. J. Range. Manage. 29: 24–29.Google Scholar
  20. Smeins, F.E. and Merrill, L.B. 1988. Longterm change in a semi-arid grassland.In Edwards Plateau vegetation: plant ecological studies in central Texas. Baylor University Press. Waco, Texas, USA. Edited by B.B. Amos and F.R. Gelbach.Google Scholar
  21. Sugihara, G. and May, R.M. 1990. Applications of Fractal Ecology. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 5: 79–86.Google Scholar
  22. Tilman, D. and Wedin, D. 1992. Oscillations and chaos in the dynamics of a perennial grass. Nature 353: 653–655.Google Scholar
  23. Turner, M.G. 1990. Spatial and temporal analysis of landscape pattern. Landscape Ecology 4: 21–30.Google Scholar
  24. Turner, S.J., O'Neill, R.V., Conely, W., Conely, M.R. and Humphries, M.R. 1992. Pattern and scale: statistics for landscape ecology.In Quantitative Methods in Landscape Ecology. Springer-Verlag, New York. NY. Edited by M. Turner and R.H. Gardner.Google Scholar
  25. Wiens, J.A. 1989. Spatial Scaling in ecology. Functional Ecology 3: 385–397.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© SBP Academic Publishing bv 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuel D. Fuhlendorf
    • 1
  • Fred E. Smeins
    • 1
  1. 1.Department Rangeland Ecology and ManagementTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

Personalised recommendations