Link to Michigan State University Homepage Link to Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Homepage
Image: Landscape limnology logo

Conceptualizing Landscape Limnology

Image: Landscape Limnology Conceptualizing Limnology.

Our conceptualization of landscape limnology forms the foundation on which virtually all our research efforts are grounded. At the heart of our research is the premise that freshwater ecosystems (lakes, streams and wetlands) can be considered patches, whose placement within a mosaic of freshwater, terrestrial and human landscapes largely determines characteristics of the ecosystems and of their processes (Wiens 2002, Soranno et al. 2009, Soranno et al. 2010).

Built upon foundational principles of landscape ecology, landscape limnology recognizes unique attributes of freshwater systems and of the freshwater landscape as a whole, with important implications for understanding the effects of pattern on process. For example, the inherent directionality of surface and groundwater flow affects both terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, but can not be easily captured by landscape metrics commonly used for terrestrial ecosystems. Critical to the landscape limnology approach is recognition that interactions among freshwater, terrestrial, and human landscapes occur at multiple spatial and temporal scales that must be considered hierarchically (Soranno et al. 2009, Soranno et al. 2010). As a result, a landscape limnology perspective can be applied, to the full range of relevant spatial scales for freshwater ecosystems. For example, for lakes, this framework can be applied at a multi-regional geographic scale to compare lake districts, at the scale of an individual lake chain to focus on the effects of landscape position on lake characteristics, or at a within-lake scale to study how habitat mosaics (aquatic plants) serve as corridors for animal movement. Much of our current research applies the landscape limnology perspective at a broad regional scale to develop understanding and approaches critical for multi-ecosystem management (see next sections).