History

Not surprisingly, a great deal of uncertainty underlies any models that attempt to predict the future. One of the most important factors driving landscape models - and also one of the most uncertain - is landscape history. For example, all of the Earth's landscapes have been altered for some time, either directly or indirectly, by human activities. The direct effects of land-use conversion are increasing with expanding human populations. The areas not subject to direct effects of land-use change are nevertheless being impacted by indirect effects such as atmospheric transport of pollutants and climate change. Because long-term data describing landscape histories is difficult to obtain, and because we cannot be certain that landscapes are ergodic (i.e., behave in a consistent manner to perturbations), predicted trajectories of landscape change remain highly uncertain. Compounding this uncertainty, we are just beginning to recognize that many landscapes have critical thresholds at which ecological processes will show dramatic changes. Incorporating site history into landscape models (including information on social, economic, biological, and physical factors) is essential for defining feedbacks between landscapes and human activities and for identifying past and potential future thresholds of change.

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