Implications of Patch Dynamics for Forested Ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest

  • G. A. Bradshaw
  • Frederick J. Swanson
  • Maria R. Fiorella
Part of the Ecological Studies book series (ECOLSTUD, volume 116)


It is not possible to discuss ecosytem processes and functions without explicit reference to the relevant scales of analysis. Although the concepts of heterogeneity and patchiness have been used for nearly twenty years (e.g., Pickett, 1991; Wiens, 1976) terms such as “pattern”, “hierarchical”, and “scale” appear with increasing frequency in journals from disciplines as disparate as geophysics, ecology, and oceanography (e.g., Grant, Swanson, & Wolman, 1990; Moloney, Morin, & Levin, 1991; Powell, 1989). Two current approaches to understanding patterns in the ecosystem are patch dynamics and hierarchy theory (O’Neill, DeAngelis, Wade, & Allen, 1986; Pickett and White, 1985; Steele et al., 1992; Wiens, 1976). The concepts of patch dynamics and hierarchy theory focus on relationships and phenomena across spatial and temporal scales. Hierarchy theory views the system as organized into levels by its intrinsic structure, where flux between levels is regulated by regionalized variables. On the other hand, patch dynamics has focused attention on the heterogeneous nature of the landscape, where the landscape evolves as a mosaic of patches. In ecosystems, this heterogeneity or variability is expressed as patterns in the distribution of plants, animals, and abiotic processes. More recently, these concepts have been incorporated into conservation design and forest and stream management plans (e.g., U.S.D.A., 1993; Swanson et al., 1994).


Forest Ecosystem Patch Size Landscape Pattern Landscape Composition Western Hemlock 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. A. Bradshaw
  • Frederick J. Swanson
  • Maria R. Fiorella

There are no affiliations available

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