A Hierarchical Patch Dynamics Approach to Regional Modeling and Scaling

EPA Grant Number: R827676
Title: A Hierarchical Patch Dynamics Approach to Regional Modeling and Scaling
Investigators: Wu, Jianguo , Green, Douglas
Institution: Arizona State University - West
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: October 15, 1999 through October 14, 2002
Project Amount: $629,540
RFA: Regional Scale Analysis and Assessment (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Aquatic Ecosystems , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


Urbanization is a major force that has drastically transformed the surface of the earth everywhere, resulting in devastating effects on ecosystem structure and function. In the Phoenix metropolitan region, agriculture and urbanization have changed the Sonoran desert landscape rapidly and profoundly. Based on the hierarchical patch dynamics modeling and scaling approach, we propose to conduct a multiple-scale and integrative study along an urban-agricultural-natural gradient in this region to understand ecosystem responses to land transformation. Our major research goals are two-fold: (1) To develop and test a hierarchical patch dynamics modeling and scaling approach to regional analysis and assessment by linking ecosystem processes to land use/land cover pattern at the landscape and regional scales, and (2) To develop an understanding of how land use change (esp. urbanization) affects ecosystem production and carbon and nitrogen dynamics at the regional scale in relation to regional sustainability and global climate change.

Project Summary: Solutions to ecological and environmental problems entail understanding and prediction of natural and anthropogenic patterns and processes on broad spatial and temporal scales. However, most ecological studies have been conducted on fine scales, and as a consequence our knowledge of our environment also is polarized towards local scales. Thus, a grand challenge for regional scale analysis and assessment is to unravel how spatial heterogeneity at coarse scales affects ecological processes, and to develop scaling strategies and rules for extrapolating information from the local ecosystem to the landscape and to the region. We propose to implement and test a hierarchical patch dynamics modeling and scaling approach that deals explicitly with spatial heterogeneity, functional complexity, and multiplicity of scale across landscapes. We will use this approach to investigate one of the most pressing environmental and ecological problems today: How does urbanization affect the landscape structure and ecosystem processes at the regional scale?


To achieve the above research goals, we propose to address several specific questions through simulation modeling and statistical analysis. We will develop a hierarchy of models to scale up ecosystem processes from the patch to the landscape and to the region. Our research approach integrates ecosystem ecology and landscape ecology and combines the hierarchical patch dynamics approach with the gradient analysis approach. We will conduct a series of field measurements on plant production and C and N for different land use/land cover types and also take advantage of the existing database developed by the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research project.

Expected Results:

The results of the project will help achieve a better understanding of the interactions between ecosystem processes and land use/land cover change, and demonstrate a spatial hierarchical modeling and scaling approach that will be generally useful to regional scale analysis and assessment.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 73 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 33 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Land, soil, urban, stressors, ecosystem, regionalization, scaling, terrestrial, habitat, integrated assessment, sustainable development, ecology, modeling, landsat, remote sensing, field measurements, Southwest, agriculture, urbanization., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, Geographic Area, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecology, Ecosystem Protection, Environmental Chemistry, climate change, State, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Environmental Monitoring, Regional/Scaling, ecological exposure, scaling, urbanization, hierarchical patch dynamics, spatial scale, functional complexity, modeling, anthropogenic, Arizona (AZ), ecosystem, agriculture, regional survey data, remote sensing imagery, field measurements, land use

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2000 Progress Report
  • 2001 Progress Report
  • Final Report