Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2007 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Spatial heterogeneity and ecosystem function: the theoretical motivation of HERCULES
Cadenasso, Mary
Co-Authors: S.T.A. Pickett
Abstract: Understanding the significance of spatial heterogeneity for the functioning of ecosystems is conceptually and theoretically central to landscape ecology. Spatial differentiation of human populations, development, and resource distribution has also been a focus of urban social science literature beginning with the Chicago School. Spatial heterogeneity is scale neutral and is defined by the research question. Descriptive measures of heterogeneity can be either spatially implicit or explicit. Functional measures, at appropriate scales, are more difficult to acquire, however, but are necessary to link system structure to system function. HERCULES, a land cover classification developed for the Baltimore metropolitan region, is one approach to identify and quantify spatial heterogeneity in the urban landscape. This approach incorporates the physical B both built and non-built B features of the landscape. It is constructed, however, to integrate with social variable derived heterogeneities at multiple scales. The spatial heterogeneity in urban ecosystems is created and modified by natural and human dominated processes. How the heterogeneity of the system influences ecosystem function has natural and human consequences as well. This multivariate feedback between structure and function provides the theoretical underpinnings of several BES research efforts such as the "cycle of design", "residential carbon" and "lead in residential soils".