The University of Arizona

Landscape structure and change in a hardwood forest-tall-grass prairie ecotone.

J.C. Boren, D.M. Engle, M.S. Gregory, R.E. Masters, T.G. Bidwell, V.A. Mast


Temporal changes in land use, vegetation cover types, and landscape structure were examined in a hardwood forest-tallgrass prairie ecotone in northern Oklahoma using a Geographic Information System. Our objective was to examine relationships between human activity, changes in land use and vegetation cover type, and landscape structure in rural landscapes between 1966 and 1990. Cover types in most of the high density rural population landscape in this study require more intensive inputs and management, which resulted in a landscape with lower diversity, higher homogeneity, and greater patch fragmentation compared to the low density rural population landscape. Both native grasslands and forests were less fragmented in the low density rural population landscape whereas forests were increasingly fragmented in the high density rural population landscape. Native grasslands were less fragmented than forests for all years in both the low density rural population and high density rural population landscapes. Our study suggests conservationists should focus their concerns on fragmentation and losses in biological diversity that accompany increased human activity in densely populated rural landscapes that surround urban centers. Extensively managed landscapes dominated by native vegetation that are under less pressure from expanding human influence are in less peril.


deciduous forests;landscape ecology;geographic information systems;ground cover;land use;population density;species diversity;Oklahoma;natural grasslands;prairies;botanical composition

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