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From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters: human signature nearly ubiquitous in representative US landscapes

Jeffrey A Cardille and Marie Lambois
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Vol. 8, No. 3 (April 2010), pp. 130-134
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20696460
Page Count: 5
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From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters: human signature nearly ubiquitous in representative US landscapes
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Abstract

What landscapes best represent the land uses and land covers (LU/LC) of the continental United States? Would the set include a cornfield? A forest? A backyard? Combining principles of landscape ecology and computer science, we identified a small set of "exemplar landscapes", representing distinct LU/LC pattern types of the conterminous US. We first partitioned the 1992 US National Land Cover Dataset into 193 705 landscapes, and quantified patterns with standard measures of LU/LC composition and configuration. Using the values to estimate similarity of LU/LC patterns between landscapes, we applied an algorithm developed to find representatives in large sets. In the resulting 17-member set of exemplar landscapes, patterns created and managed by human activity are by far the most evident features. This set of representatives summarizes the nation's LU/LC, demonstrating the degree to which human-influenced patterns dominate: aggregations of rectangular fields, farmlands within cleared forests, shrublands/pasture, and suburbs. The algorithm's selection of an exemplar for each group may have other ecological applications when an objectively determined subset of representative items is needed.

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