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[Images] Five photos of different landscape

Compass Fall 2005
Download Fall 2005 PDF

Compass is a quarterly publication of the USDA Forest Service's Southern Research Station (SRS). As part of the Nation's largest forestry research organization -- USDA Forest Service Research and Development -- SRS serves 13 Southern States and beyond. The Station's 130 scienists work in more than 20 units located across the region at Federal laboratories, universites, and experimental forests.

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Fall 2005

Investigating Landscape Patterns with the Heinz Center

The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment (Heinz Center) was founded in December 1995 in honor of Senator H. John Heinz III, and is dedicated to improving the scientific and economic foundations for environmental policy through collaborations among industry, environmental organizations, academia, and the Government.

In 2002, the Heinz Center issued a landmark report, The State of the Nation’s Ecosystems, which identified key indicators for informing policy discussions, provided data where available, and highlighted major gaps in knowledge about the Nation’s ecosystems. The report provided some 100 indicators for 10 categories, including the category “fragmentation and landscape pattern.” Kurt Riitters and his colleagues provided the assessments of forest fragmentation for the 2002 report.

“The Forest Service was one of our partners in the process, and brought Kurt’s work to our attention,” says Robin O’Malley, project director of the center’s Environmental Reporting Program. “He’s now a formal member of our working group on indicators.”

O’Malley’s program is focused on building an infrastructure for reporting on ecosystem issues—a set of technical eyes and ears that can provide the larger and longer view of what is going on across all U.S. ecosystems. “We’re looking at building something that will be here 30 to 50 years out,” says O’Malley.

For the next report, due out in 2007, O’Malley and his working group have widened the focus from forest fragmentation to landscape patterns to look at the effect of context on ecosystems. “The ‘moving window’ method developed by Kurt and his group provides a much more nuanced way of looking at the landscape than the standard, patchbased approach did,” says O’Malley.

“You can’t be too uncomfortable with ambiguity to do this kind of work,” he adds. “It’s really great to work with someone like Kurt, who keeps generating new questions and moving to the next level. We are deeply grateful for the creative work he and his colleagues have done for the Heinz Center.”

For more information about the Heinz Center:
Robin O’Malley at 202–737–6307 or

The State of the Nation’s Ecosystems
Web site:

An example of a Moving Window
Photo: Landscape pattern analysis shown by use of 'moving windows'.

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