The Third and Fourth Dimensions of Landscape: towards Conceptual Models of Topographically Complex Landscapes
Relating spatial patterns to ecological processes is one of the central goals of landscape ecology. The patch-corridor-matrix model and landscape metrics have been the predominant approach to describe the spatial arrangement of discrete elements (“patches”) for the last two decades. However, the widely used approach of using landscape metrics for characterizing categorical map patterns is connected with a number of problems. We aim at stimulating further developments in the field of the analysis of spatio-temporal landscape patterns by providing both a critical review of existing techniques and clarifying their pros and cons as well as demonstrating how to extent common approaches in landscape ecology (e.g. the patch-corridor-matrix model). The extension into the third dimension means adding information on the relief and height of vegetation, while the fourth dimension means the temporal, dynamic aspect of landscapes. The contribution is structured around three main topics: the third dimension of landscapes, the fourth dimension of landscapes, and spatial and temporal scales in landscape analysis. Based on the results of a symposium on this theme at the IALE conference in 2009 in Salzburg and a literature review we emphasize the need to add topographic information into evaluations of landscape structure, the appropriate consideration of scales; and to consider the ambiguity and even contradiction between landscape metrics.