National Park Service

Mediterranean Coast Network (MEDN)

Landscape Dynamics Monitoring

Suburban neighborhoods often replace natural habitats
Suburban neighborhoods often replace natural habitats

Landscape Dynamics Resource Briefs

Monitoring protocol under development

For more information contact: Lena Lee


The effects of humans via land use change and development are the largest and most direct impacts. Other significant overall forces shaping the landscape in this network include the introduction of invasive species, changes in the local fire regimes, the impact of climate change, and light pollution. These forces in combination with the natural ecosystem dynamics form a complex system of landscape dynamics over the southern California region.

View of Los Angeles from Santa Monica Mountains NRA
View of Los Angeles from Santa Monica Mountains NRA

Landscape dynamics refer to a broad suite of ecological and geomorphological processes occurring across broad spatial scales. Landscape dynamics can be considered both system drivers (e.g., changes in land use) and response variables (e.g., changes in the amount of grasslands or chaparral due to fire). As a result of the landscape level threats, the Mediterrnean Coast Network Inventory & Monitoring Program (MEDN) has identified landscape dynamics as a vital sign of ecological health.

Monitoring Efforts

The goal of the Landscape Dynamics monitoring protocol for the MEDN is to monitor changes in land cover and land use, vegetation communities, phenology, and light pollution over time in and around park areas. Monitoring at the landscape scale gives a broad perspective on the pattern of changes occurring throughout the entire park, and allows for a future downscaled focus on areas of change within that landscape. Remote sensing methods, especially in combination with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and on-the-ground field data, are cost-effective techniques for measuring landscape-level temporal changes over a continuous area. Remote sensing is commonly used to map changes in land cover type as well as within landscape types and vegetation classes.

Monitoring Objectives

The objectives of the MEDN Landscape Dynamics monitoring protocol are based on the service-wide goals of the I&M Program as well as on individual park needs. They are designed to be addressed using remote sensing as the tool for detecting change at the landscape-level. Specifically, the objectives of the protocol are to:

  • Determine the status and long-term trends in changes of land use and land cover of the human-built environment in and adjacent to SAMO and CABR. (Note: CHIS is not included in this objective because no significant changes in land cover or land use are anticipated due to the isolation of the islands from the built environment.)
  • Determine the variability and long-term trends in shifts of vegetation communities (e.g. chaparral vs. coastal sage scrub) in all three parks.
  • Determine the variability and long-term trends in growing-season metrics (e.g., start and end of season, duration of growing season, maximum productivity) in all three parks.
  • Map and quantify the amount of light pollution at all three parks.

Management Implications

Measurement of changes in land cover and landscape pattern will provide critical correlative information for other monitoring programs, allowing us to examine changes in other indicators relative to changes in landscape pattern.

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster