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Courses : Syllabi : 506

Geography 506 Landscape Ecology


Dr. Li An

Course Description

This course is designed for students (1) to obtain knowledge of basic concepts, methods, and applications in landscape ecology, (2) to examine and understand the ways in which spatial patterns and spatial processes operate in an ecological context, (3) to learn and become familiar with the techniques used by landscape ecologists in their work, and (4) to understand the relevance of landscape ecology to human society, and (5) to apply the concepts, models, and techniques in landscape ecology in natural resources management.

Conduct: You are responsible to know the elements of, and penalties for, academic misconduct, including dishonesty, plagiarism, cheating, etc. The penalty for violating these SDSU policies in this class is an “F” for the exam, assignment, or in-class work where the violation occurs.

Other notes: Students with disabilities should talk to me for any possible facilities or assistance. Go to for more information. By the end of the second week of classes, students should notify the instructor of planned absences in this class for religious observances.


Geography 370 or 385 recommended; or by approval of the instructor.


Grades are based on three exams (40%), five home assignments (40%), and participation (20%).

Participation (200 points): On several days the class will discuss a set of selected journal articles. Two students should form one team to lead the discussion of one article. Each team should:

  1. summarize the article, and propose a set of questions
  2. break the class into 2 or 3 groups discussing the above questions
  3. choose group representatives to report their discussions to the class using overhead transparency or chalks. The team takes note
  4. propose their answers, keys, or insights
  5. revise their answers or keys and return them to the instructor by email

Leading discussion is 100 points, and participation in classes is 100 points.

Home assignments (400 points): The five assignments, 80 points each, are scheduled on Mondays. Undergraduate students are required to complete only four of them.

Exams (400 points): Two midterm (100 points each) exams and a final exam (200 points). These exams are mostly true/false choice, multiple choice, short answer and short essay format, covering the topics in the textbook, required readings, home assignments, and discussions.

Books and Materials

Required text: Landscape Ecology in Theory and Practice, by Turner, Gardner and O'Neill (TGO), Springer, 2001.

Note: Our home assignments will be partially based on Learning Landscape Ecology, edited by Gergel and Turner (GT), Springer, 2001. I will post copies of the corresponding chapters online.

Discussion List:

  1. Liu, J., and W. Taylor. 2002. Coupling landscape ecology with natural resource management: Paradigm shifts and new approaches. In: Liu, J., and W. Taylor (eds.), Integrating Landscape Ecology into Natural Resources Management. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  2. Turner, M.G. 2005. Landscape ecology: What is the state of the science? Annual Review of Ecology Evolution and Systematics 36:319-344.
  3. Levin, S.A. 1992. The problem of pattern and scale in ecology. Ecology 73:1943-1967.
  4. Riitters, K.H. 2005. Downscaling indicators of forest habitat structure from national assessments. Ecological Indicators 5:273-279.
  5. Jackson, L.J., A.S. Trebitz, and K.L. Cottingham. 2000. An introduction to the practice of ecological modeling. BioScience 50:694-706.
  6. Malkinson, D., and R. Kadmon. 2006. The effects of inter-plant interactions and density-dependent disturbances on vegetation pattern formation. Landscape Ecology 21: 259-270.
  7. Gustafson, E.J. 1998. Quantifying landscape spatial pattern: What is the state of the art? Ecosystems 1: 143-156.
  8. Neel, M.C., K. McGarigal, and S.A. Cushman. 2004. Behavior of class-level landscape metics across gradients of class aggregation and area. Landscape Ecology 19:435-455.
  9. Foster, D.R. 1992. Land-use history (1730-1900) and vegetation dynamics in central New England, USA. Journal of Ecology 80: 753-772.
  10. Linderman, M.A., L. An, S. Bearer, G. He, and J. Liu. 2006. Interactive effects of natural and human disturbances on vegetation dynamics across landscapes. Ecological Applications 16: 452-463.
  11. Schoennagel, T., T.T. Veblen, and W.H. Romme. 2004. The interaction of fire, fuels and climate across Rocky Mountain forests. BioScience 54(7): 661-676.
  12. Christensen, N.L., A.M. Bartuska, et al. 1996. The report of the ecological society of America committee on the scientific basis for ecosystem management. Ecological Applications 6: 665-691.
  13. Tilman, D., R.M. May, C.L. Lehman, and M.A. Nowak. 1994. Habitat destruction and the extinction debt. Nature 371: 65-66.
  14. Drechsler, M., K. Frank, I. Hanski, R.B. O'Hara, and C. Wissel. 2003. Ranking metapopulation extinction risk: From patterns in data to conservation management decisions. Ecological Applications 13: 990-998.
  15. Bernhardt., E.S., M.A. Palmer, et al. 2005. Synthesizing US river restoration efforts. Science 308: 636-637.
  16. Palmer, M.A., R.F. Ambrose, and N.L. Poff. 1997. Ecological theory and community restoration ecology. Restoration Ecology 5: 291-300.
  17. Pyke, C.R. 2004. Habitat loss confounds climate change impacts. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 2: 178-182.
  18. Williams, J.C., C.S. ReVelle, and S.A. Levin. 2004. Using mathematical models to design nature reserves. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 2: 98-105.

Other useful resources: University of Massachusetts Amherst Landscape Ecology Course

Weekly Topics

Week Topic
Week One Intro to class
Week Two What is landscape ecology?
Week Three Scale detection
Readings discussion
Week Four Models
Readings discussion
Week Five Fragstats and landscape metrics
Midterm One
Week Six Quantifying patterns
Readings discussion
Week Seven Landscape metrics
Readings discussion
Week Eight Neutral models
Causes of patterns
Week Nine Creating landscape pattern
Readings discussion
Week Ten Disturbance
Ecosystem processes
Week Eleven Midterm Two
Readings discussion
Week Twelve Landscape connectivity
Readings discussion
Week Thirteen Metapopulations
Applied landscape ecology
Week Fourteen Readings discussion
Restoration and management
Week Fifteen Readings discussion
Conclusion and new directions
Review for Final Exam

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