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Quantifying seascape structure: Extending terrestrial spatial pattern metrics to the marine realm

January 1, 2011

Spatial pattern metrics have routinely been applied to characterize and quantify structural features of terrestrial landscapes and have demonstrated great utility in landscape ecology and conservation planning. The important role of spatial structure in ecology and management is now commonly recognized, and recent advances in marine remote sensing technology have facilitated the application of spatial pattern metrics to the marine environment. However, it is not yet clear whether concepts, metrics, and statistical techniques developed for terrestrial ecosystems are relevant for marine species and seascapes. To address this gap in our knowledge, we reviewed, synthesized, and evaluated the utility and application of spatial pattern metrics in the marine science literature over the past 30 yr (1980 to 2010). In total, 23 studies characterized seascape structure, of which 17 quantified spatial patterns using a 2-dimensional patch-mosaic model and 5 used a continuously varying 3-dimensional surface model. Most seascape studies followed terrestrial-based studies in their search for ecological patterns and applied or modified existing metrics. Only 1 truly unique metric was found (hydrodynamic aperture applied to Pacific atolls). While there are still relatively few studies using spatial pattern metrics in the marine environment, they have suffered from similar misuse as reported for terrestrial studies, such as the lack of a priori considerations or the problem of collinearity between metrics. Spatial pattern metrics offer great potential for ecological research and environmental management in marine systems, and future studies should focus on (1) the dynamic boundary between the land and sea; (2) quantifying 3-dimensional spatial patterns; and (3) assessing and monitoring seascape change.

Publication Year 2011
Title Quantifying seascape structure: Extending terrestrial spatial pattern metrics to the marine realm
DOI 10.3354/meps09119
Authors L.M. Wedding, L.A. Christopher, S.J. Pittman, Alan M. Friedlander, S. Jorgensen
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Marine Ecology Progress Series
Index ID 70035053
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse