Volume 98 of DOC Science Internal Series, Department of Conservation. Paper abstract bibtex
This review examines landscape indices and their usefulness in reflecting the effects of ecosystem fragmentation. Rapid fragmentation of natural ecosystems by anthropogenic activity spurred the development of landscape indices, which occurred in three phases. In proliferation, indices were introduced to quantify aspects of fragmentation, including composition, shape, and configuration. In re-evaluation, several studies demonstrated that landscape indices vary with varying landscape attributes, correlate highly with one another, and relate differently to different processes. Finally, in re-direction, efforts shifted towards developing new or modified indices motivated by ecological theory or incorporating pattern directly into models of ecological process. [\n] Overall, landscape indices do not serve as useful indicators of fragmentation effects. While certain indices are useful in specific cases, most indices should only be used to describe landscape pattern. Research should develop knowledge and models of ecosystem processes that incorporate fragmentation directly. Potential research areas include area requirements of different processes, understanding when patterns of fragmentation are important and when not, understanding which processes operate at which scales, determining relationships between pattern and exotic species persistence, and evaluating the effects of different levels of information on pattern and any follow-on effects. Studying processes directly will provide the information required to choose among various conservation options to maximize conservation gains.