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Landscape metrics and change analysis of a national wildlife refuge at different spatial resolutions

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For the past three decades, ecologists and biogeographers have increasingly incorporated remote sensing and geographical information systems (GISs) to inventory and analyse spatially organized data. Although there are many studies exploring the effects of fine resolution on remote sensing and GIS mapping, there is still a gap on how to identify the most appropriate spatial resolutions for studying landscapes and their structures and dynamics. This study investigated the effects of landscape changes over a 64-year study period at different spatial resolutions using four resampling schemes. The study was conducted on a national wildlife refuge of five land-use and land-cover (LULC) categories using aerial photos recorded in three distant years (1938, 1971, and 2001). This refuge has undergone major landscape changes in the last 64 years. Among the five LULC categories studied, the one that lost the most surface is agriculture; the most gain was made in forest and water. In terms of net change and swapping, agriculture and forest were the most dynamic categories in the National Wildlife Refuge. Our findings showed considerable spatial variability in landscape dynamics at different scales. We specifically observed that hard-classified maps with spatial resolutions of 30 m or finer provided better analysis of landscape dynamics, whereas with soft-classified maps it could go up to 90 m or finer. This implies that there is a range of optimum resolution that could allow for the use of medium-resolution data, such as Landsat, for reliable land change analysis. These findings offer further insight on landscape change analysis at different spatial resolutions and advance our understanding and knowledge on the effect of scale on landscape ecology.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography and Environmental Resources, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, IL, 62901–4514, USA

Publication date: May 3, 2014

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