Network Based Tools and Indicators for Landscape Ecological Assessments, Planning, and Design

University dissertation from Stockholm : Land and Water Resources Engineering

Abstract: Land use change constitutes a primary driving force in shaping social-ecological systems world wide, and its effects reach far beyond the directly impacted areas. Graph based landscape ecological tools have become established as a promising way to efficiently explore and analyze the complex, spatial systems dynamics of ecological networks in physical landscapes. However, little attention has been paid to making these approaches operational within ecological assessments, physical planning, and design. This thesis presents a network based, landscape-ecological tool that can be implemented for effective use by practitioners within physical planning and design, and ecological assessments related to these activities. The tool is based on an ecological profile system, a common generalized network model of the ecological infrastructure, graph theoretic metrics, and a spatially explicit, geographically defined representation, deployable in a GIS. Graph theoretic metrics and analysis techniques are able to capture the spatio-temporal dynamics of complex systems, and the generalized network model places the graph theoretic toolbox in a geographically defined landscape. This provides completely new insights for physical planning, and environmental assessment activities. The design of the model is based on the experience gained through seven real-world cases, commissioned by different governmental organizations within Stockholm County. A participatory approach was used in these case studies, involving stakeholders of different backgrounds, in which the tool proved to be flexible and effective in the communication and negotiation of indicators, targets, and impacts. In addition to successful impact predictions for alternative planning scenarios, the tool was able to highlight critical ecological structures within the landscape, both from a system-centric, and a site-centric perspective. In already being deployed and used in planning, assessments, inventories, and monitoring by several of the involved organizations, the tool has proved to effectively meet some of the challenges of application in a multidisciplinary landscape.