Recent developments in landscape approaches for the study of aquatic ecosystems

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103 Scopus citations


We summarized landscape approaches used in the study of freshwater ecosystems, updated recent literature reviews on interactions between terrestrial and lotic ecosystems, and discussed the influence of J-NABS on developments in the field. We focused primarily on studies of freshwater ecosystems done at or above the catchment scale. Special issues of J-NABS and other journals have advanced our understanding of the effects of spatially distributed characteristics and phenomena on aquatic ecosystems. Topics that have been well covered in J-NABS include use of classification to predict biotic assemblages and impacts of human disturbance (especially urbanization) on stream structure and function. Early work focused on correlative relationships between landscape variables and various biotic components of stream systems, whereas later studies addressed causal linkages between landscape and biota, including landscape effects on hydrology, habitat at various spatial scales, and ecosystem processes. At large spatial scales (i.e., catchments or regions), landscape context and heterogeneity are important predictors of compositional, structural, and functional attributes of streams and lakes. The size of the study region and catchments and the level of disturbance across the region can interfere with our ability to generalize results across studies. Geographical information systems and remote sensing technologies are important tools for understanding and quantifying these relationships, and new sophisticated tools are available for measuring landscape pattern and context. Lotic ecosystems are challenging to study because of the directional flow of water across (and beneath) the landscape. However, new spatial analysis tools can incorporate hydrologic connectivity. Limited data on surface and groundwater connections and lack of available watershed delineations make finding similar connections between lakes and wetlands and their surrounding landscapes challenging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-66
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of the North American Benthological Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2010

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2010 by The North American Benthological Society


  • Aquatic ecosystem
  • Catchment
  • Connectivity
  • Hierarchy
  • J-NABS
  • Landscape
  • Region
  • Review
  • Scale
  • Watershed


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