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Optimal scales to observe habitat dynamics: a coral reef example


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Habeeb, RL, Johnson, CR, Wotherspoon, SJ and Mumby, PJ 2007 , 'Optimal scales to observe habitat dynamics: a coral reef example' , Ecological Applications, vol. 17, no. 3 , pp. 641-647 , doi: 10.1890/06-0348.

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A new technique to estimate the characteristic length scales (CLSs) of real
ecological systems provides an objective means to identify the optimal scale(s) of observation
to best detect underlying dynamical trends. Application of the technique to natural systems
has focused on identifying appropriate scales to measure the dynamics of species as descriptors
of community and ecosystem dynamics. However, ecosystem monitoring is often based not on
assessing single species, but on species assemblages, functional groups, or habitat types. We
asked whether the concept of CLSs based on dynamic interactions among species could be
extended to examine interactions among habitat types and thus to identify optimal scales for
observing habitat dynamics. A time series of three spatial maps of benthic habitats on a
Caribbean coral reef was constructed from aerial photographs, Compact Airborne
Spectrographic Imager (CASI) images, and IKONOS satellite images, providing the short
time sequence required for this technique. We estimated the CLS based on the dynamics of
three distinct habitat types: dense stands of seagrass, sparse stands of seagrass, and Montastrea
patch reefs. Despite notable differences in the areal extent of and relative change in these
habitats over the 21-year observation period, analyses based on each habitat type indicated a
similar CLS of ~300 m. We interpret the consistency of CLSs among habitats to indicate that
the dynamics of the three habitat types are linked. The results are encouraging, and they
indicate that CLS techniques can be used to identify the appropriate scale at which to monitor
ecosystem trends on the basis of the dynamics of only one of a disparate suite of habitat types.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Habeeb, RL and Johnson, CR and Wotherspoon, SJ and Mumby, PJ
Keywords: characteristic length scale; coral reef; ecosystem trends; habitat; monitoring; remote sensing; scale; spatial; spatial and temporal dynamics
Journal or Publication Title: Ecological Applications
DOI / ID Number: 10.1890/06-0348
Additional Information:

Copyright © 2007 the Ecological Society of America

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