Landscape Ecology

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 449–464 | Cite as

Effects of land-cover change on spatial pattern of forest communities in the Southern Appalachian Mountains (USA)

  • Monica G. Turner
  • Scott M. Pearson
  • Paul Bolstad
  • David N. Wear


Understanding the implications of past, present and future patterns of human land use for biodiversity and ecosystem function is increasingly important in landscape ecology. We examined effects of land-use change on four major forest communities of the Southern Appalachian Mountains (USA), and addressed two questions: (1) Are forest communities differentially susceptible to loss and fragmentation due to human land use? (2) Which forest communities are most likely to be affected by projected future land cover changes? In four study landscapes, maps of forest cover for four time periods (1950, 1970, 1990, and projections for 2030) were combined with maps of potential forest types to measure changes in the extent and spatial pattern of northern hardwoods, cove hardwoods, mixed hardwoods, and oak-pine. Overall, forest cover increased and forest fragmentation declined in all four study areas between 1950 and 1990. Among forest community types, cove hardwoods and oak-pine communities were most affected by land-cover change. Relative to its potential, cove hardwoods occupied only 30–40% of its potential area in two study landscapes in the 1950s, and oak-pine occupied ∼50% of its potential area; cove hardwoods remained reduced in extent and number of patches in the 1990s. Changes in northern hardwoods, which are restricted to high elevations and occur in small patches, were minimal. Mixed hardwoods were the dominant and most highly connected forest community type, occupying between 47 and 70% of each study area. Projected land-cover changes suggest ongoing reforestation in less populated regions but declining forest cover in rapidly developing areas. Building density in forest habitats also increased during the study period and is projected to increase in the future; cove hardwoods and northern hardwoods may be particularly vulnerable. Although increases in forest cover will provide additional habitat for native species, increases in building density within forests may offset some of these gains. Species-rich cove hardwood communities are likely to be most vulnerable to future land-use change.

Building density Forest communities Land-cover change Land-use change Landscape change Southern appalachians Spatial analysis 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Antrop M. 2000. Changing patterns in the urbanized countryside of Western Europe. Landscape Ecology 15: 257–270.Google Scholar
  2. Askins R., Lynch J. and Greenberg R. 1990. Population declines in migratory birds in eastern North America. Current Ornithology 7: 1–57.Google Scholar
  3. Bernhardsen T. 1992. Geographic Information Systems. VIAK, Myrene, Arendal, Norway.Google Scholar
  4. Bolger D.T., Scott T.A. and Rotenberry J.T. 1997. Breeding bird abundance in an urbanizing landscape in coastal southern California. Conservation Biology 11: 406–421.Google Scholar
  5. Bolstad P.V., Swank W. and Vose J. 1998. Predicting Southern Appalachian overstory vegetation with digital terrain data. Landscape Ecology 13: 271–283.Google Scholar
  6. Bouma J., Varallyay G. and Batjes N.H. 1998. Principal land use changes anticipated in Europe. Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment 67: 103–119.Google Scholar
  7. Braun E.L. 1950. Deciduous Forests of Eastern North America. McGraw-Hill, New York, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  8. Cooperrider A., Garrett L.R. and Hobbs N.T. 1999. Data collection, management, and inventory. In: Johnson N.C., Malk A.J., Sexton W.T. and Szaro R. (eds), Ecological Stewardship: A Common Reference for Ecosystem Management. Elsevier Science Limited, Oxford, UK, pp. 604–627.Google Scholar
  9. Dale V.H., Brown S., Haeuber R., Hobbs N.T., Huntly N., Naiman R.J. et al. 2000. Ecological principles and guidelines for managing the use of land. Ecological Applications10: 639–670.Google Scholar
  10. Dale V.H., Pearson S.M., Offerman H.L. and O’Neill R.V. 1994. Relating patterns of land-use change to faunal biodiversity in the central Amazon. Conservation Biology 8: 1027–1036.Google Scholar
  11. Day.P. and Monk C.D. 1974. Vegetation patterns on a southern Appalachian watershed. Ecology 34: 329–346.Google Scholar
  12. Day F.P., Phillips D.L. and Monk C.D. 1988. Forest communities and patterns. In: Swank W.T. and Crossley D.A. (eds), Forest Hydrology and Ecology at Coweeta. Springer-Verlag, New York, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  13. Detenbeck N., Johnston C.A. and Niemi G. 1993. Wetland effects on lake water quality in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. Landscape Ecology 8: 39–61.Google Scholar
  14. Duerksen C.J., Elliott D.L., Hobbs N.T., Johnson E. and Miller J.R. 1997. Habitat protection planning: where the wild things are. Report number 470/471. American Planning Association, Planning Advisory Service, Chicago, Illinois, USA.Google Scholar
  15. Duffy D.C. and Meier A.J. 1992. Do Appalachian herbaceous understories ever recover from clearcutting? Conservation Biology 6: 196–201.Google Scholar
  16. Dupouey J.L., Dambrine E., Laffite J.D. and Moares C. 2002. Irreversible impact of past land use on forest soils and biodiversity. Ecology 83: 2978–2984.Google Scholar
  17. Eller R.D. 1982. Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers: Industrialization of the Appalachian South, 1880–1930. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA.Google Scholar
  18. Foster D.R. 1992. Land-use history (1730–1990) and vegetation dynamics in central New England, USA. Journal of Ecology 80: 753–772.Google Scholar
  19. Foster D.R., Knight D.H. and Franklin J.F. 1998. Landscape patterns and legacies resulting from large infrequent forest disturbances. Ecosystems 1: 497–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Foster D.R., Fluet M. and Boose E.R. 1999. Human or natural disturbance: landscape-scale dynamics of the tropical forests of Puerto Rico. Ecological Applications 9: 555–572.Google Scholar
  21. Franklin J.F. 1993. Preserving biodiversity: species, ecosystem, or landscapes. Ecological Applications 3: 202–205.Google Scholar
  22. Franklin J.F. and Forman R.T.T. 1987. Creating landscape patterns by forest cutting: ecological consequences and principles. Landscape Ecology 1: 5–18.Google Scholar
  23. Friesen L.E., Eagles P.F.J. and Mackay R.J. 1995. Effects of residential development on forest-dwelling neotropical migrant songbirds. Conservation Biology 9: 1408–1414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fuller J.L., Foster D.R., McLachlan J.S. and Drake N. 1998. Impact of human activity on regional forest composition and dynamics in central New England. Ecosystems 1: 76–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hansen A.M., Garman S.L., Marks B. and Urban D.L. 1993. An approach for managing vertebrate diversity across multiple-use landscapes. Ecological Applications 3: 481–486.Google Scholar
  26. Hansen A.J., McComb W.C., Vega R., Raphael M.G. and Hunter M. 1995. Bird habitat relationships in natural and managed forests in the West Cascades of Oregon. Ecological Applications 5: 555–569.Google Scholar
  27. Harding J.S., Benfield E.F., Bolstad P.V., Helfman G.S. and Jones E.B.D. III 1998. Stream biodiversity: the ghost of land use past. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 95: 14843–14847.Google Scholar
  28. Harrison R.L. 1997. A comparison of gray fox ecology between residential and undeveloped rural landscapes. Journal of Wildlife Management 61: 112–122.Google Scholar
  29. Hunter M.L. Jr 1991. Coping with ignorance: the coarse-filter strategy for maintaining biodiversity. In: Kohm K.A. (ed.), Balancing on the Brink of Extinction. Island Press, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 266–281.Google Scholar
  30. Johnson L.B., Richards C., Host G. and Arthur J.W. 1997. Landscape influences on water chemistry in midwestern streams. Freshwater Biology 37: 209–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jongman R.H.G. 2002. Homogenisation and fragmentation of the European landscape: ecological consequences and solutions. Landscape and Urban Planning 58: 211–221.Google Scholar
  32. Lee R.G., Flamm R.O., Turner M.G., Bledsoe C., Chandler P., De-Ferrari C. et al. 1992. Integrating sustainable development and environmental vitality. In: Naiman R.J. (ed.), New Perspectives in Watershed Management. Springer-Verlag, New York, New York, USA, pp. 499–521.Google Scholar
  33. Li H., Franklin J.F., Swanson F.J. and Spies T.A. 1993. Developing alternative forest cutting patterns: a simulation approach. Landscape Ecology 8: 63–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lillesand T.M. and Kiefer R.W. 1994. Remote Sensing and Image Interpretation. 3rd edn. John Wiley & Sons, New York, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  35. Lucy W.H. and Phillips D.L. 1997. The post-suburban era comes to Richmond: city decline, suburban transition, and exurban growth. Landscape and Urban Planning 36: 259–275.Google Scholar
  36. MacDonald D., Crabtree J.R., Wiesinger G., Dax T., Stamou N., Fleury P. et al. 2000. Agricultural abandonment in mountainous areas of Europe: Environmental consequences and policy response. Journal of Environmental Management 59: 47–69.Google Scholar
  37. Matlack G.R. 1994. Plant-species migration in a mixed-history forest landscape in eastern North America. Ecology 75: 1491–1502.Google Scholar
  38. Matlack G.R. 1997. Land use and forest distribution in the hinterland of a large city. Journal of Biogeography 24: 297–307.Google Scholar
  39. McGarigal K. and Marks B.J. 1995. FRAGSTATS. Spatial analysis program for quantifying landscape structure. General Technical Report PNW-GTR-351. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, Oregon, USA.Google Scholar
  40. McNab W.H. 1989. Terrain shape index: quantifying effect of minor landforms on tree height. Forest Science 35: 91–104.Google Scholar
  41. Miller J.N., Brooks R.P. and Croonquist M.J. 1997. Effects of landscape patterns on biotic communities. Landscape Ecology 12: 137–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mitchell C.E., Turner M.G. and Pearson S.M. 2002. Effects of historical land use and forest patch size on myrmechocores and ant communities in the southern Appalachian Highlands (USA). Ecological Applications 12: 1364–1377, UPDATE (in press).Google Scholar
  43. Motzkin G., Foster D., Allen A., Harrod J. and Boone R. 1996. Controlling site to evaluate history: vegetation patterns of a New England sand plain. Ecological Monographs 66: 345–366.Google Scholar
  44. Noss R.F. 1987. From plant communities to landscapes in conservation inventories: a look at the Nature Conservancy (USA). Biological Conservation 41: 11–37.Google Scholar
  45. Odell E.A. and Knight R.L. 2001. Songbird and medium-sized mammal communities associated with exurban development in Pitkin County, Colrado. Conservation Biology 15: 1143–1150.Google Scholar
  46. Pearson S.M., Smith A.B. and Turner M.G. 1998. Forest fragmentation, land use, and cove-forest herbs in the French Broad River Basin. Castanea 63: 382–395.Google Scholar
  47. Pearson S.M., Turner M.G. and Drake J.B. 1999. Landscape change and habitat availability in the Southern Appalachian Highlands and the Olympic Peninsula. Ecological Applications 9: 1288–1304.Google Scholar
  48. Phillips D.L. and Shure D.L. 1990. Patch-size effects on early succession in southern Appalachian forests. Ecology 71: 204–212.Google Scholar
  49. Poiani K.A., Baumgartner J.V., Buttrick S.C., Green S.L., Hopkins E., Ivey G.D. et al. 1998. A scale-independent site conservation planning framework in The Nature Conservancy. Landscape and Urban Planning 43: 143–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Radeloff V.C., Hagen A.E., Voss P.R., Field D.R. and Mladenoff D.J. 2000. Exploring the relationship between census and land cover data in a GIS. Society and Natural Resources 13: 599–609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Radeloff V.C., Hammer R.B., Voss P.R., Hagen A.E., Field D.R. and Mladenoff D.J. 2001. Human demographic trends and landscape level forest management in the northwest Wisconsin pine barrens. Forest Science 47: 229–241.Google Scholar
  52. Reid W.V. 2001. Biodiversity, ecosystem change, and international development. Environment 43: 20–26.Google Scholar
  53. Richards D., Johnson L.B. and Host G. 1996. Landscape-scale in-fluences on stream habitats and biota. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 53, (Supplement 1): 295–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rutledge D. 1995. GIS Modeling of Forest Cover Distribtuions in a Southern Appalachian Watershed. MS Thesis, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA.Google Scholar
  55. [SAMAB] Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere 1996. The Southern Appalachian assessment social/cultural/economic technical report. Report 4 of 5. USDA Forest Service, Southern Region, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, ( SAA_data.html).Google Scholar
  56. Schnaiberg J., Riera J., Turner M.G. and Voss P.R. 2002. Explaining human settlement patterns in a recreational lake district: Vilas County, Wisconsin, USA. Environmental Management 30: 24–34.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Sinclair A.R.E., Hik D.S., Schmitz O.J., Scudder G.G.E., Turpin D.H. and Larter N.C. 1995. Biodiversity and the need for habitat renewal. Ecological Applications 5: 579–587.Google Scholar
  58. Skole D.L., Chomentowski W.H., Salas W.A. and Nobre A.D. 1994. Physical and human dimensions of deforestation in Amazonia. BioScience 44: 314–322.Google Scholar
  59. Soranno P.A., Hubler S.L., Carpenter S.R. and Lathrop R.C. 1996. Phosphorus loads to surface waters: a simple model to account for spatial pattern of land use. Ecological Applications 6: 865–878.Google Scholar
  60. Tucker K., Rushton S.P., Sanderson R.A., Martin E.B. and Blaiklock J. 1997. Modelling bird distributions-a combined GIS and Bayesian rule-based approach. Landscape Ecology 12: 77–93.Google Scholar
  61. Turner B.L. III, Meyer W.B. and Skole D.L. 1994. Global land use/land cover change: toward an integrated program of study. Ambio 23: 91–95.Google Scholar
  62. Turner M.G. 1990. Landscape changes in nine rural counties in Georgia, USA. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing 56: 379–386.Google Scholar
  63. Turner M.G., Carpenter S.R., Gustafson E.J., Naiman R.J. and Pearson S.M. 1998. Land use. In: Mac M.J., Opler P.A., Doran P. and Haecker C. (eds), Status and Trends of our Nation’s Biological Resources. Vol. 1. USGS National Biological Service, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 37–61.Google Scholar
  64. Turner M.G., Wear D.N. and Flamm R.O. 1996. Influence of land ownership on land-cover change in the Southern Appalachian Highlands and Olympic Peninsula. Ecological Applications 6: 1150–1172.Google Scholar
  65. Vandvik V. and Birks H.J.B. 2002. Partitioning floristic variance in Norwegian upland grasslands into within-site and between-site components: are the patterns determined by environment or by land use? Plant Ecology 162: 233–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Vogel W.O. 1989. Response of deer to density and distribution of housing in Montana. Wildlife Society Bulletin 17: 406–413.Google Scholar
  67. Wallin D.O., Swanson F.J. and Marks B. 1994. Landscape pattern response to changes in pattern generation rules: land-use legacies in forestry. Ecological Applications 4: 569–580.Google Scholar
  68. Wear D.N. and Bolstad P. 1998. Land-use changes in Southern Appalachian landscapes: spatial analysis and forecast evaluation. Ecosystems 1: 575–594.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wear D.N. and Flamm R.O. 1993. Public and private disturbance regimes in the Southern Appalachians. Natural Resource Modeling 7: 379–397.Google Scholar
  70. Wear D.N., Turner M.G. and Flamm R.O. 1996. Ecosystem management in a multi-ownership setting: exploring landscape dynamics in a Southern Appalachian watershed. Ecological Applications 6: 1173–1188.Google Scholar
  71. Wear D.N., Turner M.G. and Naiman R.J. 1998. Institutional imprints on a developing forested landscape: implications for water quality. Ecological Applications 8: 619–630.Google Scholar
  72. White D., Minotti P.G., Barczak M.J., Sifneos J.C., Freemark K.E., Santelmann M.V. et al. 1997. Assessing risks to biodiversity from future landscape change. Conservation Biology 11: 349–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Whittaker R.H. 1952. A study of summer foliage insect communities in the Great Smoky Mountains. Ecological Monographs 22: 1–44.Google Scholar
  74. Whittaker R.H. 1956. Vegetation of the Great Smoky Mountains. Ecological Monographs 26: 1–80.Google Scholar
  75. Williams M. 1989. Americans and their Forests: A Historical Geography. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.Google Scholar
  76. Wolf P.R. 1983. Elements of Photogrammetry. McGraw-Hill, New York, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  77. Zipperer W.C., Wu J., Pouyat R.V. and Pickett S.T.A. 2000. The application of ecological principles to urban and urbanizing landscapes. Ecological Applications 10: 685–688.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Monica G. Turner
    • 1
  • Scott M. Pearson
    • 2
  • Paul Bolstad
    • 3
  • David N. Wear
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyMars Hill CollegeMars HillUSA
  3. 3.Department of Forest ResourcesUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA
  4. 4.Research Triangle ParkUSDA Forest ServiceUSA

Personalised recommendations