Analysis of landscape patterns in coastal wetlands of Galveston Bay, Texas (USA)


2001 Oct


Liu AJ
Cameron GN

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High productivity and accessibility have made coastal wetlands attractive sites for human settlements. This study analyzed the patterns of wetland landscapes in Galveston Bay, Texas, USA. The first objective of the study was to describe the relationships between the fractal dimension of wetland boundaries and those factors which affect the wetland landscapes (e.g., land use, type of vegetation, size, location, and level of human disturbance). The second objective was to construct a historical database to contrast wetland areas which had experienced different levels of disturbance between 1956 and 1989. The fractal dimension, a measure of how much of the geographical space is filled by boundaries, was measured by the perimeter-area method. The fractal dimension of wetlands was significantly affected by land use, type of vegetation, size, and level of anthropogenic disturbance. In addition, increasing the size of buffers around roads did not significantly affect the fractal dimension of wetlands. Landscape indices, such as fractal dimension, dominance, and diversity, were used to characterize spatial heterogeneity in the historical database. Lake Stephenson, an area of low anthropogenic disturbance, experienced no changes in wetland composition and abundance over time. Anahuac, an area of medium disturbance, experienced changes in both wetland composition and abundance. Texas City, an area of high disturbance, experienced a change in wetland composition. These differences can be associated with the type and level of disturbance present; however, more evidence is needed to determine whether certain landscape patterns have stable, intrinsic properties which allow persistence in the face of disturbance. These results will be informative to resource managers determining how wetlands can be managed as natural resources and nature reserves




fractal dimension, GALVESTON BAY, GIS, historical database, human disturbance, landscape ecology, spatial patterns, wetlands, RIPARIAN FOREST, SALT-MARSH, FRACTALS, habitat, EDGE