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A brief history of the ecotope concept

        and its application in landscape ecology

Arthur Tansley, a British ecologist, originated the ecosystem concept (Tansley 1935) and later extended the concept by defining the term ecotope, as "the particular portion,..., of the physical world that forms a home (οϊκος) for the organisms which inhabit it" (Tansley 1939).
Carl Troll a German geographer, originated the term landscape ecology  as part of his early work applying aerial photograph interpretation to his studies of vegetation/environement interactions (Troll 1939).  Troll claims first use of the term "ecotope" (ökotop) in landscape ecology research starting in 1945 (Troll 1950), after reading Tansley (1939).  However, first published use of the term "ecotope" in landscape ecology literature belongs to Schmithüsen (1948).
Researchers in Europe and Asia have long applied the ecotope concept in landscape ecology research.  Examples include Canters (1991), Girel et al. (1997), Klijn and de Haes (1994), Yue et al. (2004), Hong et al. (2004), and a host of others.
An early version of anthropogenic ecotope mapping was used to measure long-term ecological changes, circa 1930 to 1994, across a village in rural China (Ellis et al. 2000a; project website))
Anthropogenic Ecotope Mapping (AEM) was developed to measure long-term ecological changes within and across anthropogenic landscapes in China and the USA using a combination of high resolution satellite imagery and historical aerial photographs (Ellis et al. 2006).


Canters, K. J., C. P. den Herder, A. A. de Veer, P. W. M. Veelenturf, and R. W. de Waal. 1991. Landscape-ecological mapping of the Netherlands. Landscape Ecology 5:145-162.

Ellis, E.C., R.G. Li, L.Z. Yang, and X. Cheng. 2000. Long-term change in village-scale ecosystems in China using landscape and statistical methods. Ecological Applications 10(4):1057-1073. [download]

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]

Girel, J., B. Garguet-Duport, and G. Pautou. 1997. Landscape structure and historical processes along diked European Valleys: A case study of the Arc-Isere Confluence (Savoie, France). Environmental Management 21:891-907.

Hong, S.-K., S. Kim, K.-H. Cho, J.-E. Kim, S. Kang, and D. Lee. 2004. Ecotope mapping for landscape ecological assessment of habitat and ecosystem. Ecological Research 19:131-139.

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. 1935. The use and abuse of vegetational concepts and terms. Ecology 16: 284-307.

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.

Yue, T. X., B. Xu, and J. Y. Liu. 2004. A patch connectivity index and its change in relation to new wetland at the Yellow River Delta. International Journal of Remote Sensing 25:4617-4628.