eco-tope.  eco- Greek oikos (οϊκος); house, household (ecosystem), -tope Greek topos; place, locality.
Ecotopes are the smallest ecologically-distinct landscape features in a landscape mapping & classification system.
bullet Ecotopes are relatively homogeneous, spatially-explicit landscape units that are useful for stratifying landscapes into ecologically distinct features for the measurement and mapping of landscape structure, function and change.
bullet Like ecosystems, ecotopes are identified using criteria that depend on the specific application involved.  In the case of ecotopes these are criteria defined within a specific ecological mapping and classification system (e.g. AEM).
bullet Just as ecosystems are defined by the interaction of biotic and abiotic components, ecotope classification should stratify landscapes based on a combination of both biotic and abiotic factors, including vegetation, soils, hydrology and other factors.
bullet Other parameters that must be considered in ecotope classification and mapping include their period of stability (such as the number of years that a feature might persist), their spatial scale (minimum mapping unit), and the strategy by which they are distinguished as separate features within the landscape.
bullet Our definition of ecotopes is based on the anthropogenic ecotope mapping & classification system (AEM), which is designed to measure ecological pattern, process, and change across anthropogenic landscapes.  By our definition, ecotopes are ecologically distinct features that are potentially stable over ≥2 years and are consistently and repeatably identifiable by both ecologists and land managers in the field and in ≤1 m resolution imagery (Ellis et al., 2006). 

Related definitions:

Tansley (1939): First definition of ecotope: "the particular portion,..., of the physical world that forms a home (οϊκος) for the organisms which inhabit it".
Carl Troll (1950): Troll first applied the term ecotopekotop) to landscape ecology in 1945 as: "the smallest spatial object or component of a geographical landscape".

Schmithüsen (1948): Discussed the ecotope concept in the German landscape science literature prior to Troll's usage, as part of his discussion of a "tile structure of landscapes", with ecotopes essentially serving as the tiles within the landscape tile structure (mosaic).
Zonneveld (1989): "... an ecologically homogeneous tract of land at the scale level being considered."
Haber (1994): " ecotope is a concrete ecosystem at a given and defined site." 
Klijn and de Haes (1994): "... the smallest ecological land unit relevant in landscape ecology, with relative homogeneity regarding vegetation structure."
Forman (1995): "...smallest homogeneous mappable unit of land."
Farina (1998): "... hierarchical functional classification of the landscape."
Ignenoli (2002): "The smallest landscape unitary multidimensional element that has all the structural and functional characters of the concerned landscape."
Bastian et al. (2003): "... the landscape sphere and its related systems of landscape complexes (ecosystems)".  This source provides a thorough review of the ecotope concept.

Encyclopedia of Earth

ecotope at Encyclopedia of Earth



ecotope at


Alternate definitions

The term "ecotope" has also been defined for other purposes in ecology:
Whittaker et al (1973): "The species relation to the full range of environmental and biotic variables affecting it."



Bastian, O., C. Beierkuhlein, H. J. Klink, J. Löfffler, U. Steinhardt, M. Volk, and M. Wilmking. 2003. Landscape structures and processes. Pages 49-112 in O. Bastian and U. Steinhardt, eds. Development and Perspectives of Landscape Ecology. Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Ellis, E. C., H. Wang, H. Xiao, K. Peng, X. P. Liu, S. C. Li, H. Ouyang, X. Cheng, and L. Z. Yang. 2006. Measuring long-term ecological changes in densely populated landscapes using current and historical high resolution imagery. Remote Sensing of Environment 100(4):457-473. [download]

Farina, A. 1998. Principles and Methods in Landscape Ecology. Chapman & Hall, London; New York.

Forman, R.T.T. 1995. Land Mosaics: The Ecology of Landscapes and Regions. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Haber, W. 1994. System ecological concepts for environmental planning. Pages 49-67 in F. Klijn, ed. Ecosystem Classification for Environmental Management. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.

Ingegnoli, V. 2002. Landscape Ecology - a Widening Foundation: A Holistic Unifying Approach. Springer, Berlin; New York.

Klijn, F., and H. A. Udo De Haes. 1994. A hierarchical approach to ecosystems and its implications for ecological land classification. Landscape Ecology 9: 89-104.

Schmithüsen, J. 1948. "Fliesengefüge der Landschaft" und "Ökotop": Vorschläge zur begrifflichen Ordnung und zur Nomenklatur in der Landschaftsforschung. Berichte zur Deutschen Landeskunde (Bad Godesberg) 5: 74-83.

Tansley, A. G. 1939. The British Isles and Their Vegetation. Vol. 1 of 2. Cambridge, United Kingdom. 494 pp.

Troll, C. 1950. Die geografische landschaft und ihre erforschung. Pages 163-181. Studium Generale 3. Springer, Heidelberg, German Democratic Republic.

Whittaker, R. H., S. A. Levin, and R. B. Root. 1973. Niche, habitat, and ecotope. American Naturalist 107: 321-338.

Zonneveld, I. S. 1989. The land unit - A fundamental concept in landscape ecology, and its applications. Landscape Ecology 3: 67-86.