The Template: Patterns and Processes of Spatial Variation
Ecosystem processes are inherently variable in space and time, in part because they occur on a spatially heterogeneous template or landscape. For many purposes, the patterns of heterogeneity can be characterized as gradients, patchworks, or networks—or some combination of these fundamental patterns. Each class of landscape pattern implies that it has been generated by certain kinds of abiotic or biotic mechanisms, which can be described by particular mathematical formulations.We illustrate these points with a few selected, ecologically relevant examples. Quantitatively characterizing the patterns of variation in the template and understanding their causes, correlates, and consequences are important steps in investigating the influence of spatial heterogeneity on the structure and function of ecological systems at all scales from molecular to global.
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