Dynamics of spatial forest cover

Dynamics of spatial forest cover pattern in Flanders, based on historical and recent forest maps

Researcher associate: Eva De Clercq

Promoter: Robert De Wulf

Duration: 02/2002- 02/2008

Project objectives

The spatial pattern of the landscape mosaic (also referred to as spatial structure) is determined by two aspects of the spatial arrangement of forest patches in a landscape: composition and configuration. Composition describes the land cover types present in the landscape and their relative proportions, but without reference to the location within the landscape. Configuration refers to the specific spatial arrangement of patches and their shapes.  Spatial structure can be assessed qualitatively or quantitatively. The ability to quantify pattern is nonetheless a major asset to the study of landscape change. Without numerical parameters, the forester depends on hazy words to describe desirable spatial patterns, and is left without clear indications what he is supposed to do to obtain these patterns and what quantitative criteria are suitable to measure success. Quantitative measures can be used as an input for models - theoretical constructs that represent processes by a set of variables and a set of relationships between them. Models are used by natural resource managers in substitution for controlled experiments to predict the outcome of management decisions.  When applied to spatial patterns of forest cover in an area of several square kilometres, models can establish connections between a given spatial pattern of forest cover and a given forest service, or detect cause-effect relationships among intervention strategies and changes in spatial pattern.

The main objective of this project is the development of a procedure to quantify spatial forest cover pattern in highly urbanized regions. This includes the selection of an appropriate subset of pattern metrics, assessing the added value of using a statistical approach for this selection, and an evaluation of the impact of the chosen sampling strategy. Best practices for the description of spatial structure in highly urbanized regions will be identified, and a typology of forested landscapes will be drawn based on their spatial structure.

In a second step, the focus is on monitoring, or the detection of temporal changes, using historical maps. The impact of positional errors in data layers, as well as the effectiveness of mitigating strategies is analysed.

Finally, a decision support tool for forest management planning is developed, evaluating scenarios on forest recreation opportunities. The feasibility of using pattern metrics in spatiotemporal modelling is studied.

Two key publications

De Clercq, E., Clement, L. and De Wulf,R. “Monte Carlo Simulation of False Change in the Overlay of Misregistered Forest Vector Maps.” LANDSCAPE AND URBAN PLANNING 91.1 (2009): 36–45

De Clercq, E., De Wulf, R.  and Van Herzele, A. “Relating Spatial Pattern of Forest Cover to Accessibility.” LANDSCAPE AND URBAN PLANNING 80.1-2 (2007): 14–22.