Landscape Ecology (ECo 621)

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Course Syllabus


This course provides students with an introduction to the discipline of landscape ecology. Landscape ecology might be defined best by its focus on the interplay between spatial pattern and process; specifically, how to characterize spatial pattern, where it comes from, why it matters, and how it changes through time. Thus, in this course, the focus is on the following:

  • Detecting and characterizing landscape patterns.--Finding the characteristic scale of spatial pattern; defining the elements of pattern; connectedness, fractal geometry, and percolating networks; and how these aspects of pattern are interrelated in landscapes, and how they vary.
  • How patterns develop on landscapes.--Including the three agents of pattern formation: the physical template of environmental constraints, biotic processes, and disturbance regimes.
  • Landscape dynamics.--How landscape patterns and processes change through time, including techniques for detecting, analyzing, or simulating landscape change; and modeling populations or communities in landscape mosaics (including spatially implemented metapopulation models).
  • Implications of landscape pattern.--This is the central set of questions in landscape ecology; how does landscape pattern affect populations and metapopulations, communities, and ecosystem processes.
  • Landscape management.--How humans approach the management of complex landscapes to achieve management objectives, including two themes central to ecology today: Conservation biology and ecosystem management.

Beyond these overall content goals, this course is intended to:

  • Provide students with an opportunity to work and learn in an interdisciplinary environment;
  • Provide students with an opportunity to engage in active, student-directed learning.
  • Provide students with an opportunity to refine their written and oral communication skills.

Who Should Take This Course

This course is designed for graduate students in the Environmental Conservation Department (ECo) and Organismal and Evolutionary Biology (OEB) program, although students from a variety of other departments, including Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning (LARP), may benefit as well. To accomplish the course goals and objectives, we use a project-based learning approach. Students work in interdisciplinary teams on several group projects, and there is a heavy emphasis on the use of computer models.


Turner et al. 2001. Landscape Ecology in Theory and Practice, Springer. Lecture notes by K. McGarigal; and assigned journal articles.


Graduate standing in WFCON or OEB, or permission from instructor.

Course Content

Use the links on the left to access course content, including lecture slides and notes, assigned readings, and all materials associated with the lab projects (e.g., software, datasets)

For more information, please contact:
Dr. Kevin McGarigal
Department of Environmental Conservation
University of Massachusetts
304 Holdsworth Natural Resources Center
Box 34210, Amherst, MA 01003
Fax: (413) 545-4358; Phone: (413) 577-0655

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