By Joern Fischer
I’d like to recommend the following paper:
Land-use change: incorporating the frequency, sequence, time span, and magnitude of changes into ecological research by Watson SJ, Luck GW, Spooner PG, Watson DM. Front Ecol Environ 2014 May; 12(4):241-9, DOI: 10.1890/130097
Land use change is a key topic in biodiversity conservation. However, many ecologists treat land use change as a uni-directional, or one-off event. For example, they might distinguish between intact versus degraded vegetation, or they might consider an ongoing process of degradation (sometimes considering sudden changes or thresholds). Few ecologists have thought about the fact that land use may in fact change multiple times over relatively short time periods, thus creating a fluctuating mosaic of land covers.
This new paper provides a very nice way of thinking about the complexities caused by multiple land use changes happening one after the other. It deals with the frequency of land use change, the time span for which a given land cover exists in a particular location, and also how much of a contrast there is between the new land use and some prior or reference state.
In this context, the authors also raise a range of scale considerations (regarding temporal scale, spatial scale, and the resolution of underlying land cover maps or models), as well as thinking about how different ecological characteristics of target species would be affected by different temporal aspects of land cover change.
I think this is an excellent paper that landscape ecologists and conservation biologists should read because it provides a lot of food for new thoughts on how to think about landscape dynamics.