Spatial ecology deals with the spatial distribution of organisms and a general objective of spatial analysis is to reveal the relationship between observed spatial distributions of species and the mechanisms underlying these spatial distributions. The recent advances in analysing spatial patterns of organisms in spatial ecology have greatly contributed to better understanding the distribution of organisms in space and time.
A prerequisite for exploring the ecological information provided by spatial distributions of organisms is to precisely describe the spatial structure of point patterns with statistical methods. Over the past decades, statisticians have developed structurally different summary statistics for this purpose. Moreover, rapid advances in computer science and technology have resulted in an increased application of spatial statistics. In addition, development of remote sensing and geographic information system (GIS) technology has led to the identification of spatiotemporal patterns of organisms and has increased the possibility to identify how human activities have influenced animal and plant habitats. Consequently, ecologists have started to introduce spatial variation and complexity of ecosystems into their analyses, including changes of spatial patterns over time.
The widespread application of spatial analysis in ecological studies makes it possible to consider special parts in IALE World Congresses or related topics in IALE Annual Conferences and prepare special issues to be published by technical journals (e.g., Ecological Modelling, Spatial Statistics).
Letter from the Working Group leader
One of the members of our WG has recently written a book entitled “Individual-based Methods in Forest Ecology and Management” published by Springer. Landscape ecology in forests and woodlands is an integration of structurally different fields. The book put the main ones together to provide practical approaches that can be well implemented in sustainable management of forest ecosystems and their assessment from ecological point of view. The book is consisted of seven chapters and integrates three main fields of tree/plant interactions, biometry of plant growth and human behaviour in forests. The book introduces methods that can reveal interactions of individual plants with other plants, their environment and human. Understanding the individual-based spatial interactions of plants can provide deep insight to establishment and formation of plant communities as one of the main goals in landscape ecology.
In 2021, we also started a project on spatial distribution of mangrove forests in the south of Iran. Mangrove forests are one of the most important ecosystems with significant ecological and socio-economic values. The forests have been established along the northern coastlines of Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman and their geographic extent is considered as the highest latitudes (29 degrees N) mangroves can be observed in the northern hemisphere. Previous studies have shown that one of the first quantitative characteristics of mangrove forests that is significantly influenced by natural and man-made threats is their spatial extent. Long-term monitoring changes of mangrove spatial extent can reveal their quantitative and qualitative characteristics which are important in sustainable management of the ecosystems. Considering intertidal zones mangroves grow, field measurements may be time and cost consuming. Therefore, application of remote sensing is widespread in mangrove mapping from landscape to local scales. We planned to delineate the spatial distribution of mangrove patches and monitor their spatial changes on remotely sensed data in the south of Iran. The remotely sensed data considered for this project is Landsat since the satellite has been continuously observing the earth from 1973 through the present time and provides a long-term archive of satellite images with appropriate spectral, spatial and temporal resolutions. We hope to finish the project in 2022 and report our findings on the extent and long-term spatial changes of mangrove forests in the south of Iran.
Yousef Erfanifard, PhD (WG leader)
Arne Pommerening, PhD (Co-WG leader)