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Geomorphometry in landscape ecology: Issues of scale, physiography, and application

September 3, 2018

Topographic measures are frequently used in a variety of landscape ecology applications, in their simplest form as elevation, slope, and aspect, but increasingly more complex measures are being employed. We explore terrain metric similarity with changes in scale, both grain and extent, and examine how selecting the best measures is sensitive to changes in application. There are three types of topographic measures: 1) those that relate to orientation for approximating solar input, 2) those that capture variability in terrain configuration, and 3) those that provide metrics about landform features. Many biodiversity hotspots and predators have been found to coincide with areas of complexity, yet most complexity measures cannot differentiate between terrain steepness and uneven and broken terrain. Currently characterizing terrain in landscape-level analyses can be challenging, especially at coarser spatial resolutions but developing methods that improve landscape-level assessments include multivariate approaches and the use of neighborhood statistics. Some measures are sensitive to the spatial grain of calculation, the physiography of the landscape, and the scale of application. We show which measures have the potential to be multi-collinear, and illustrate with a case study how the selection of the best measures can change depending on the question at hand using mountain lion (Puma concolor) occurrence data. The case study showed a combination of infrequently employed metrics, such as view-shed analysis and focal statistics, outperform more commonly employed singular metrics. The use of focal statistics as a measure of topographic complexity shows promise for improving how mountain lions use terrain features.

Publication Year 2018
Title Geomorphometry in landscape ecology: Issues of scale, physiography, and application
DOI 10.13189/eer.2018.060501
Authors Kirsten E. Ironside, David J. Mattson, Terence R. Arundel, Tad Theimer, Brandon Holton, Michael Peters, Thomas C. Edwards, Jered R. Hansen
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environment and Ecology Research
Index ID 70199173
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southwest Biological Science Center