Quantifying the effect of grazing and shrub-clearing on small scale spatial pattern of vegetation

Avi Bar Massada, Ofri Gabay, Avi Perevolotsky, Yohay Carmel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Disturbances such as grazing, invading species, and clear-cutting, often act at small spatial scales, and means for quantifying their impact on fine scale vegetation patterns are generally lacking. Here we adopt a set of landscape metrics, commonly used for quantifying coarse scale fragmentation, to quantify fine scale fragmentation, namely the fine scale vegetation structure. At this scale, patches often consist of individual plants smaller than 1 m 2, requiring the grain of the analysis to be much smaller. We used balloon aerial photographs to map fine details of Mediterranean vegetation (pixel size <0.04 m) in experimental plots subjected to grazing and clear-cutting and in undisturbed plots. Landscape metrics are sensitive to scale. Therefore, we aggregated the vegetation map into four coarser scales, up to a resolution of 1 m, and analyzed the effect of scale on the metrics and their ability to distinguish between different disturbances. At the finest scale, six of the seven landscape metrics we evaluated revealed significant differences between treated and undisturbed plots. Four metrics revealed differences between grazed and control plots, and six metrics revealed differences between cleared and control plots. The majority of metrics exhibited scaling relations. Aggregation had mixed effects on the differences between metric values for different disturbances. The control plots were the most sensitive to scale, followed by grazing and clearing. We conclude that landscape metrics are useful for quantifying the very fine scale impact of disturbance on woody vegetation, assuming that the analysis is based on sufficiently high spatial resolution data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-339
Number of pages13
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Disturbance
  • Fragmentation
  • Grazing
  • Landscape-metrics
  • Spatial-pattern

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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