A Landscape Disturbance Matrix for Conserving Biodiversity


  • Sonia Leverkus
  • Samuel D. Fuhlendorf
  • Marten Geertsema
  • R. Dwayne Elmore
  • David M. Engle
  • Kristen A. Baum




British Columbia, fire, heterogeneity, resource selection, shifting mosaic


No single disturbance regime is suitable for maintaining ecological patterns and processes across an entire landscape when viewed broadly from an ecological perspective. Some species may require high-frequency and high-intensity disturbance, while others may require low-frequency and low-intensity disturbance. Across a large landscape, specific sites with certain features, slopes, and topography also provide important elements for the structure and function of the landscape. These sites, coupled with varying time since disturbance, provide diverse spatial mosaics across landscapes and are essential for biodiversity. Traditional land management has employed a simplistic view of natural processes. The result on large landscapes is that patterns derived from these processes are not comprehensively understood, accepted, or applied. In most landscapes, traditional management has not promoted heterogeneity so that all possible conditions are represented. However, based on all available evidence, creating heterogeneity and a shifting mosaic across the landscape should be a primary objective if conservation of biodiversity is the goal. This article introduces the concept of the landscape disturbance matrix (LDM) as a framework for strategic landscape planning that encompasses time since disturbance at multiple sites. This concept keys in on the needs of priority wildlife species, which have varying responses to time since disturbance. In this article, a large management area in northeastern British Columbia is used to demonstrate that managing change in the landscape for multiple times since disturbance on multiple sites will promote multi-functionality and biodiversity, thereby providing an objective basis for land management planning. A forward planning approach such as the LDM also provides a foundation for ecological resilience and disturbance-absorbent landscapes, thereby allowing land managers to plan for the future based on the past and current disturbance regimes.






Discussion Papers