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Predicting the Spread of Disturbance across Heterogeneous Landscapes

Monica G. Turner, Robert H. Gardner, Virginia H. Dale and Robert V. O'Neill
Oikos
Vol. 55, No. 1 (May, 1989), pp. 121-129
Published by: Wiley on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos
DOI: 10.2307/3565881
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3565881
Page Count: 9
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Predicting the Spread of Disturbance across Heterogeneous Landscapes
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Abstract

The expected pattern of disturbance propagation across a landscape was studied by using simple landscape models derived from percolation theory. The spread of disturbance was simulated as a function of the proportion of the landscape occupied by the disturbance-prone habitat and the frequency (probability of initiation) and intensity (probability of spread) of the habitat-specific disturbance. Disturbance effects were estimated from the proportion of habitat affected by the disturbance and changes in landscape structure (i.e., spatial patterns). Landscape structure was measured by the number of habitat clusters, the size and shape of the largest cluster, and the amount of edge in the landscape. Susceptible habitats that occupied less than 50% of the landscape were sensitive to disturbance frequency but showed little response to changes in disturbance intensity. Susceptible habitat that occupied more than 60% of the landscape were sensitive to disturbance intensity and less sensitive to disturbance frequency. These dominant habitats were also very easily fragmented by disturbances of moderate intensity and low frequency. Implications of these results for the management of disturbance-prone landscapes are discussed. The propagation of disturbance in heterogeneous landscapes depends on the structure of the landscape as well as the disturbance intensity and frequency.

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