Landscape Ecology

golden monkey in tree

Landscape ecology addresses interactions between landscape pattern (patches, corridors, etc.) and ecological processes such as flow of energy, materials, and organisms. Landscape ecologists are especially interested in the causes and consequences of landscape heterogeneity over varying spatial and temporal scales. With contributions from ecology, geography, and several social science disciplines, landscape ecology has a set of key emphases, including the influence of natural disturbance and human land use on ecosystems, development of pattern metrics and understanding their link to ecological processes, the importance of landscape pattern for various taxa, and interspecific interactions at spatial scales.

Sponsored by local, state and federal funding agencies, our research explores the representation of and connection between landscape-level patterns and ecological processes and human systems using spatial-temporal, statistical, and simulation models. A major goal of these models is to predict landscape events (e.g., fire, habitat loss, species extinction, deforestation) at relevant spatial and temporal resolution(s), understand the corresponding driving force and/or mechanism behind observed patterns, and provide policy recommendations for addressing emerging human-environment issues.

Projects

the mikania vine covers trees that support ecosystem services

Mapping and Modeling the Invasion of Mikania Micrantha in Chitwan Community Forests, Nepal Leave geography site

This is a NASA NESSF Project, which aims to evaluate the interactions and feedbacks in coupled human and natural systems (CHANS), and how these interactions and feedbacks will affect the invasion of an exotic plant species Mikania micrantha (also called "mile-a-minute weed”) in subtropical forested buffer zone surrounding Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Ph.D candidate is the PI and Dr. Li An is the advisor of this NASA-funded project (Photo courtesy: The CNH project Leave geography site led by Dr. Scott Yabiku)

map of buffer zones around chitwan national park

Feedbacks between Human Community Dynamics and Socioecological Vulnerability in a Biodiversity Hotspot Leave geography site

This 5-year NSF project (2012-2017) explores the links between Mikania micrantha (an exotic plant species) invasion, ecosystem properties, and activities of households and communities in subtropical forested buffer zone surrounding Chitwan National Park, Nepal. We aim to answer two key questions: 1) What social and ecological factors enable the rapid spread or control of this fast-moving invasive species? 2) How do collectively governed and market-based, non-family organizations facilitate or mitigate the responses of community forest groups to rapid environmental change?

volunteer installing camera on tree

Impacts of Ecosystem Service Payments in Coupled Natural and Human Systems Leave geography site

This is a 5-year NSF project (2012-2017) aiming to understand the complex human-environment systems (CHES) at Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve in China, the habitat of the endangered Guizhou golden monkey (Rhinopithecus brelichi) and other endangered species as well as home of over 13,000 villagers with a subsistence lifestyle. Payments for ecosystem services are incentives paid to users of natural resources to reduce their use of these resources and the accompanying stresses and disturbances to the natural systems that provide the resources. We focus on understanding the interactions between payment programs and coupled systems over space and time, shedding light on measurable environmental changes such as associated with species distribution, forest cover and land use transitions due to payment programs, changes in human livelihoods, demographic behavior, and their interrelationships since payment program implementation, and the integrated CHES dynamics.

Multiple Wildlife Species and Habitat Projects Leave geography site

These projects address red-crowned parrot, the coastal cactus wren and the coastal California gnatcatcher, and six bat species in Southern California. Another project deals with sex-specific habitat models for Bengal tigers in Chitwan National Park, Nepal.

comparing satellite imagery from 2008 to 2011

Habitat Monitoring Based on Remote Sensing

The goal of the Multispecies Conservation Program in San Diego County is to ensure the survival of rare, endangered and threatened animal and plant species that mostly occur with the coastal sage scrub ecosystem type. An important for maintaining viable populations of such species is to make sure that the amount and condition of their habitats are maintained. This may be achieved through adaptive management, which necessarily relies on monitoring habitat types and conditions. Remote sensing provides a means for large area and spatially comprehensive monitoring of the vegetation component of habitat. We continue to develop and test image-based procedures for monitoring changes in habitat composition and condition, at spatial resolutions varying between 0.1 to 50 m. A cost and information effective approach to image-based monitoring is through the implementation of a multiple endmember spectral mixture analysis technique applied to SPOT multispectral satellite data capture at time intervals between 1 and 5 years. This research has been supported by NASA, California Department of Fish and Game, San Diego Association of Governments and City of San Diego.

Faculty

Courses