In order to study forest fragmentation in the Virginia, USA Piedmont, a series of Landsat images from 1973, 1987, and 1999 covering a rapidly developing area (Loudoun County) was used to classify forest from non-forest. The classified images were analyzed using a geographic information system (GIS) to determine the spatial and temporal patterns of fragmentation, and to relate these patterns to infrared radiance provided by Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) band 6. The analysis was concentrated on eleven major watersheds of Loudoun County. The relationship between urbanized area per watershed and mean fragment size showed a strong negative decay form (r2 = 0.757, p < 0.0001). Analysis of four landscape metrics showed increasing fragmentation of forest cover, particularly from 1987 to 1999, as well as an increase in forest edge and shape complexity. Of the landscape metrics used, the perimeter-to-area (P/A) ratio showed the strongest relationship with mean radiance of forest patches. In addition, there was a negative, linear relationship between distance from major roads and band 6 radiance of forested pixels. Overall, the study shows that landscape metrics can convey meaningful information on biophysical changes associated with forest fragmentation at broad scales. These changes suggest that ambient temperature increases associated with urban sprawl may have important, long-term implications for ecophysiological processes.
- Eastern deciduous forests
- Landscape metrics
- Thermal infrared remote sensing
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Nature and Landscape Conservation