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Landscape issues in plant ecology

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In the last decade, we have seen the emergence and consolidation of a conceptual framework that recognizes the landscape as an ecological unit of interest. Plant ecologists have long emphasized landscape-scale issues, but there has been no recent attempt to define how landscape concepts are now integrated in vegetation studies. To help define common research paradigms in both landscape and plant ecology, we discuss issues related to three main landscape concepts in vegetation researches, reviewing theoretical influences and emphasizing recent developments. We first focus on environmental relationships, documenting how vegetation patterns emerge from the influence of local abiotic conditions. The landscape is the physical environment. Disturbances are then considered, with a particular attention to human-driven processes that often overrule natural dynamics. The landscape is a dynamic space. As environmental and historical processes generate heterogeneous patterns, we finally move on to stress current evidence relating spatial structure and vegetation dynamics. This relates to the concept of a landscape as a patch-corridor-matrix mosaic. Future challenges involve: 1) the capacity to evaluate the relative importance of multiple controlling processes at broad spatial scale; 2) better assessment of the real importance of the spatial configuration of landscape elements for plant species and finally; 3) the integration of natural and cultural processes and the recognition of their interdependence in relation to vegetation management issues in human landscapes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2002

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