Canadian Forest Service Publications

Ecosystem classifications based on summer and winter conditions. 2012. Andrew, M.E.; Nelson, T.A.; Wulder, M.A.; Hobart, G.W.; Coops, N.C.; Farmer, C.J.Q. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment: (online version: page numbers, volume not yet assigned).

Year: 2012

Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 33981

Language: English

Availability: PDF (download)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1007/s10661-012-2773-z

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Ecosystem classifications map an area into relatively homogenous units for environmental research, monitoring and management. However, their effectiveness is rarely tested. Here, three classifications are 1) defined and characterized for Canada along summertime productivity (MODIS fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation) and wintertime snow conditions (SSM/I snow water equivalent), independently and in combination, and 2) comparatively evaluated to determine the ability of each classification to represent the spatial and environmental patterns of alternative schemes, including the Canadian ecozone framework. All classifications depicted similar patterns across Canada, but detailed class distributions differed. Class spatial characteristics varied with environmental conditions within classifications, but were comparable between classifications. There was moderate correspondence between classifications. The strongest association was between productivity classes and ecozones. The classification along both productivity and snow balanced these two sets of variables, yielding intermediate levels of association in all pairwise comparisons. Despite relatively low spatial agreement between classifications, they successfully captured patterns of the environmental conditions underlying alternate schemes (e.g., snow classes explained variation in productivity, and vice versa). The performance of ecosystem classifications and the relevance of their input variables depend on the environmental patterns and processes used for applications and evaluation. Productivity or snow regimes, as constructed here, may be desirable when summarizing patterns controlled by summer or winter-time conditions, respectively, or of climate change responses. General-purpose ecosystem classifications should include both set of drivers. Classifications should be carefully , quantitatively, and comparatively evaluated relative to a particular application prior to their implementation as monitoring and assessment frameworks.