Lacunarity As a Tool For Assessing Landscape Configuration Over Time and Informing Long-Term Monitoring: An Example Using Seagrass

Document Type


Publication Date



Ocean Science and Engineering


Context: Seagrasses are submerged marine plants that have been declining globally at increasing rates. Natural resource managers rely on monitoring programs to detect and understand changes in these ecosystems. Technological advancements are allowing for the development of patch-level seagrass maps, which can be used to explore seagrass meadow spatial patterns.

Objectives: Our research questions involved comparing lacunarity, a measure of landscape configuration, for seagrass to assess cross-site differences in areal coverage and spatial patterns through time. We also discussed how lacunarity could help natural resource managers with monitoring program development and restoration decisions and evaluation.

Methods: We assessed lacunarity of seagrass meadows for various box sizes (0.0001 ha to 400.4 ha) around Cat Island and Ship Island, Mississippi (USA). For Cat Island, we used seagrass data from 2011 to 2014. For Ship Island, we used seagrass data for seven dates between 1963 and 2014.

Results: Cat Island, which had more continuous seagrass meadows, had lower lacunarity (i.e., denser coverage) compared to Ship Island, which had patchier seagrass beds. For Ship Island, we found a signal of disturbance and path toward recovery from Hurricane Camille in 1969. Finally, we highlighted how lacunarity curves could be used as one of multiple considerations for designing monitoring programs, which are commonly used for seagrass monitoring.

Conclusions: Lacunarity can help quantify spatial pattern dynamics, but more importantly, it can assist with natural resource management by defining fragmentation and potential scales for monitoring. This approach could be applied to other environments, especially other coastal ecosystems.

Publication Title

Landscape Ecology



First Page


Last Page


Find in your library