Landscape ecology focuses on patterns and processes at multiple spatial and temporal scales of the landscape mosaic. Landscape ecology is particularly important to grassland systems as they have evolved into a shifting mosaic as succession is continually reset by disturbances from fires, drought and grazing. Landscape ecology of Southern Plains Network (SOPN) parks is particularly important due to their small size. The ecological communities within SOPN parks are as influenced by the ecological processes and land use activities occurring outside of park boundaries as they are by management decisions within the park.
SOPN will use data from the Landscape Dynamics Project as the source of data for monitoring this vital sign. At its core, the Landscape Dynamics Project delivers a suite of products that focus on a set of information-rich, landscape-scale indicators for the parks. The initial analyses summarized and delivered measures in 6 major categories (population, housing, roads, land cover, pattern, and conservation status) that broadly address the environmental drivers, natural attributes, and conservation context of NPS units. In aggregate, these measures contribute to assessments of current natural resource status, potential threats, and conservation vulnerability and opportunity.