Empirical studies of the relative effects of landscape variables may compromise inferential strength with common approaches to landscape selection. We propose a methodology for landscape sample selection that is designed to overcome some common statistical pitfalls that may hamper estimates of relative effects of landscape variables on ecological responses. We illustrate our proposed methodology through an application aimed at quantifying the relationships between farmland heterogeneity and biodiversity. For this project, we required 100 study landscapes that represented the widest possible ranges of compositional and configurational farmland heterogeneity, where these two aspects of heterogeneity were quantified as crop cover diversity (Shannon diversity index) and mean crop field size, respectively. These were calculated at multiple spatial extents from a detailed map of the region derived through satellite image segmentation and classification. Potential study landscapes were then selected in a structured approach such that: (1) they represented the widest possible range of both heterogeneity variables, (2) they were not spatially autocorrelated, and (3) there was independence (no correlation) between the two heterogeneity variables, allowing for more precise estimates of the regression coefficients that reflect their independent effects. All selection criteria were satisfied at multiple extents surrounding the study landscapes, to allow for multi-scale analysis. Our approach to landscape selection should improve the inferential strength of studies estimating the relative effects of landscape variables, particularly those with a view to developing land management guidelines.

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Keywords Experimental field design, GIS, Landscape composition, Landscape configuration, Landscape heterogeneity, Landscape structure, Multi-scale analysis, Site selection
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10980-013-9852-6
Journal Landscape Ecology
Pasher, J. (Jon), Mitchell, S, King, D, Fahrig, L, Smith, A.C. (Adam C.), & Lindsay, K.E. (Kathryn E.). (2013). Optimizing landscape selection for estimating relative effects of landscape variables on ecological responses. Landscape Ecology, 28(3), 371–383. doi:10.1007/s10980-013-9852-6