Pattern and Fragmentation
The JRC’s FORESTMOD activities focus on spatial model integration for an improved macro-scale assessment, reporting and information sharing on landscape pattern, fragmentation and connectivity related issues.
An on-line data visualization and query is also available at (EFDAC map viewer).
The activity aim to support European policies on Biodiversity, Forestry, Natura2000 and Green infrastructure. Those policies include the need of mitigating fragmentation and rendering protection more effective. One condition to achieve this is to increase the spatial and functional connectivity between natural and semi-natural protected and unprotected areas.
In Europe, the continued expansion of grey (artificial) infrastructure (urban and transport) and of intensive agriculture are increasingly eroding our natural fabric and natural capital (e.g. green infrastructure). These expansions are considered the biggest threat to biodiversity. Many of Europe’s natural/semi-natural habitats are highly fragmented and at risk of further fragmentation, a process that may be exacerbated in the context of climate change. In parallel to this anthropization process, a naturalization process is also taking place which follows the abandonment of farming and gives rise to natural vegetation by means of secondary succession. All land use/cover changes lead to changes in landscape pattern.
Key knowledge to address fragmentation should be on areas of edge and interior habitat, on the isolation or connectivity of focal natural/semi-natural habitat patches within other land use forms (agricultural areas, transport infrastructures or settlements), and on edges where areas of focal habitat(s) abut modified ecosystems. Fragmentation constrains natural movements of species (e.g. for foraging, breeding, migration and dispersal) but on the other hand, may prevent the spread of alien species, pests, predators and diseases. Thus, fragmentation is inherently neither good nor bad; it is matter of interpretation which is species and habitat specific.
Reporting on pattern, fragmentation and connectivity is first of all about identifying a generic set of indices to measure landscape pattern and their changes, which could in a second step be customized for specific species and habitats particularly vulnerable to fragmentation. The availability of a generic and easily reproducible set of indices would also be relevant to include landscape ecology concern in a sustainable territorial development perspective.