Hierarchical relationships between landscape structure and temperature in a managed forest landscape

Document Type


Publication Date



Management may influence abiotic environments differently across time and spatial scale, greatly influencing perceptions of fragmentation of the landscape. It is vital to consider a priori the spatial scales that are most relevant to an investigation, and to reflect on the influence that scale may have on conclusions. While the importance of scale in understanding ecological patterns and processes has been widely recognized, few researchers have investigated how the relationships between pattern and process change across spatial and temporal scales. We used wavelet analysis to examine the multiscale structure of surface and soil temperature, measured every 5 m across a 3820 m transect within a national forest in northern Wisconsin. Temperature functioned as an indicator - or end product - of processes associated with energy budget dynamics, such as radiative inputs, evapotranspiration and convective losses across the landscape. We hoped to determine whether functional relationships between landscape structure and temperature could be generalized, by examining patterns and relationships at multiple spatial scales and time periods during the day. The pattern of temperature varied between surface and soil temperature and among daily time periods. Wavelet variances indicated that no single scale dominated the pattern in temperature at any time, though values were highest at finest scales and at midday. Using general linear models, we explained 38% to 60% of the variation in temperature along the transect. Broad categorical variables describing the vegetation patch in which a point was located and the closest vegetation patch of a different type (landscape context) were important in models of both surface and soil temperature across time periods. Variables associated with slope and microtopography were more commonly incorporated into models explaining variation in soil temperature, whereas variables associated with vegetation or ground cover explained more variation in surface temperature. We examined correlations between wavelet transforms of temperature and vegetation (i.e., structural) pattern to determine whether these associations occurred at predictable scales or were consistent across time. Correlations between transforms characteristically had two peaks; one at finer scales of 100 to 150 m and one at broader scales of > 300 m. These scales differed among times of day and between surface and soil temperatures. Our results indicate that temperature structure is distinct from vegetation structure and is spatially and temporally dynamic. There did not appear to be any single scale at which it was more relevant to study temperature or this pattern-process relationship, although the strongest relationships between vegetation structure and temperature occurred within a predictable range of scales. Forest managers and conservation biologists must recognize the dynamic relationship between temperature and structure across landscapes and incorporate the landscape elements created by temperature-structure interactions into management decisions.

Publication Title

Landscape Ecology