Evaluating anthropogenic risk of grassland and forest habitat degradation using land-cover data


  • Kurt Riitters USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, United States https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3901-4453
  • James D. Wickham US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, Environmental Sciences Division, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711, United States https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7409-7365
  • Timothy G. Wade US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, Environmental Sciences Division, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711, United States




Edge effect, Geographic information system, Island biogeography theory, Land-cover map, Landscape mosaic, Model, Patch isolation


The effects of landscape context on habitat quality are receiving increased attention in conservation biology. The objective of this research is to demonstrate a landscape-level approach to mapping and evaluating the anthropogenic risks of grassland and forest habitat degradation by examining habitat context as defined by intensive anthropogenic land uses at multiple spatial scales. A landscape mosaic model classifies a given location according to the amounts of intensive agriculture and intensive development in its surrounding landscape, providing measures of anthropogenic risks attributable to habitat isolation and edge effects at that location. The model is implemented using a land-cover map (0.09 ha/pixel) of the conterminous United States and six landscape sizes (4.4, 15.2, 65.6, 591, 5300, and 47800 ha) to evaluate the spatial scales of anthropogenic risk. Statistics for grassland and forest habitat are extracted by geographic overlays of the maps of land-cover and landscape mosaics. Depending on landscape size, 81 to 94 percent of all grassland and forest habitat occurs in landscapes that are dominated by natural land-cover including habitat itself. Within those natural-dominated landscapes, 50 percent of grassland and 59 percent of forest is within 590 m of intensive agriculture and/or intensive developed land which is typically a minor component of total landscape area. The conclusion is that anthropogenic risk attributable to habitat patch isolation affects a small proportion of the total grassland or forest habitat area, while the majority of habitat area is exposed to edge effects.


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How to Cite

Riitters, K., Wickham, J. D., & Wade, T. G. (2009). Evaluating anthropogenic risk of grassland and forest habitat degradation using land-cover data. Landscape Online, 13. https://doi.org/10.3097/LO.200913



Research Article