Land-use change: Incorporating the frequency, sequence, time span, and magnitude of changes into ecological research

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Abstract

The frequency of anthropogenic land-cover changes is escalating worldwide. Increasing frequency of land changes is an underappreciated process that will affect ecosystems over and above individual changes. Most research has focused on the ecological effects of major, one-time changes in land cover (e.g., deforestation), or on the spatial patterns of landscapes at a fixed point in time. We argue for a deeper understanding of the temporal dynamics of human-induced land-cover change. We distinguish between four major components of land-change regimes - frequency of change, sequence and time-span of land covers, and the magnitude of difference between land covers - and use a conceptual model to synthesize the impacts of these components on ecological communities. We hypothesize that frequent land-cover changes will favor species that are habitat and dietary generalists. Greater attention to the complex dynamics of land-cover change is crucial for understanding the impacts of humans on biota and ecosystems
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-249
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Volume12
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2014

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