9Landscape Dynamics

9.1 The Dynamic Nature of Landscapes: Disturbances and Equilibrium

Landscapes are in a continuous state of flux with their composition and configuration varying constantly temporally. A portion of the temporal landscape change is due to seasonality as changes in organisms’ activity affect resource availability1. Also changing environmental conditions and resource availability in turn affect other organisms and processes. Additional changes, occurring on a variety of scales, can result from climatic variation, succession, disturbance, or human management of lands2,3.

Some of the changes involved in landscape dynamics are directional, some reversible, and some appear to occur at random. The landscape composition and configuration at any point results from the sum of two groups of processes: those related to primary and secondary succession (mortality, recruitment, environmental change, soil development) and those related to disturbance (human and natural causes).

Theoretically, a landscape’s composition may be at or near equilibrium but the landscape configuration may continue to change through time. This condition is often referred to as dynamic equilibrium or shifting steady‐state mosaic4,5,6 and would occur naturally when the processes related to disturbance are compensated for by those related to recovery or secondary succession when viewed from the appropriate spatial and temporal scale. This condition is obviously extremely scale‐dependent. Application ...

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