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Emerging trajectories for spatial pattern analysis in landscape ecology

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Landscape ecology is an interdisciplinary field, drawing on theories and methods from across the physical, natural, and social sciences. Spatial pattern analysis was built on this foundation of interdisciplinarity, and these connections continue to foster new trajectories in the field.


Using the Isserman Curve (i.e., the innovation-adoption or cumulative knowledge curve) as a framing device, this paper examines how interdisciplinary perspectives continue to help de-lock from periods of incremental improvement in spatial pattern analysis and launch new, transformative directions for describing and analyzing spatial patterns.


Examples of interdisciplinary perspectives from three fields are discussed alongside the promising trajectories being launched. These include: (1) microscopy and surface metrology, which are contributing methods for analyzing spatial patterns in gradient surfaces, (2) thermodynamics and information theory, which contribute a foundation for measuring entropy and an understanding of how landscape patterns are governed by the central organizing principles of nature, and (3) regional studies, which utilizes alternative conceptualizations of proximity that may be applied to graph-based approaches to better incorporate functional connectivity.


Landscape ecology’s interdisciplinary roots have been instrumental for developing innovative approaches to spatial pattern analysis, and outside perspectives continue to add richly to development efforts today. During periods of incremental improvement, landscape ecologists have drawn from other disciplines to create new seedbeds for ideas. While many trajectories may emerge, there is no rule that only one must become dominant. Blending multiple perspectives and ideas together into mutually supportive structures is helping the field move beyond the status quo.

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I would like to thank the guest editors, Jennifer Costanza, Kurt Riitters, Jim Wickham, and Peter Vogt, for organizing this special issue for inviting me to contribute. I would also like to thank the handling editor and anonymous reviewers who provided thoughtful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. Lastly, I am grateful to Peter Kedron and Kurt Riitters, who both provided valuable external perspectives on early drafts that helped me de-lock from several thought plateaus. This work was partially funded by a Grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (#1561021).

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Correspondence to Amy E. Frazier.

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Frazier, A.E. Emerging trajectories for spatial pattern analysis in landscape ecology. Landscape Ecol 34, 2073–2082 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-019-00880-1

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  • Landscape metrics
  • Surface metrics
  • Entropy
  • Thermodynamics
  • Proximity