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Working Group Spatial Analysis of Organisms in the Environment

Spatial ecology deals with the spatial distribution of organisms and a general objective of spatial analysis is to reveal the relationship between observed spatial distributions of species and the mechanisms underlying these spatial distributions. The recent advances in analysing spatial patterns of organisms in spatial ecology have greatly contributed to better understanding the distribution of organisms in space and time. 
A prerequisite for exploring the ecological information provided by spatial distributions of organisms is to precisely describe the spatial structure of point patterns with statistical methods. Over the past decades, statisticians have developed structurally different summary statistics for this purpose. Moreover, rapid advances in computer science and technology have resulted in an increased application of spatial statistics. In addition, development of remote sensing and geographic information system (GIS) technology has led to the identification of spatiotemporal patterns of organisms and has increased the possibility to identify how human activities have influenced animal and plant habitats. Consequently, ecologists have started to introduce spatial variation and complexity of ecosystems into their analyses, including changes of spatial patterns over time. 

Our Working Group serves as a forum to develop application-specific approaches for the use of spatial analysis in ecological studies. We perform the following work: 

  • Reveal the importance of the topic and increase the application of spatial analysis among scientists working on ecological dynamics and processes in terrestrial ecosystems  
  • Organize symposia at IALE World or regional meetings where we can explore opportunities for joint research projects between statisticians and ecology scientists.  
  • Set up workshops on related topics (e.g., application of MATLAB, ArcGIS, and R Software such as “Spatial Statistics Tools” in ArcMap and “SPATSTAT” package in R to different topics of spatial ecology)
  • Develop and prepare publications (e.g., special issues in journals, booklets) directly focusing on the topic

The widespread application of spatial analysis in ecological studies makes it possible to consider special parts in IALE World Congresses or related topics in IALE Annual Conferences and prepare special issues to be published by technical journals (e.g., Ecological Modelling, Spatial Statistics).      
All interested colleagues are warmly welcome to contact:
Yousef Erfanifard (erfanifard(at)

2024 Update

Our WG recently investigated mangrove forests along Iran's southern coast, covering over 1500 kilometers. The research highlights the importance of accurate mapping for conservation. We used satellite-based remote sensing to identify new sites and track changes over time. Our study used the submerged mangrove recognition index (SMRI) for precise mangrove mapping. Analysis over three decades (i.e., 1990-2020) showed an overall increase in mangrove area and trends in landscape connectivity. These findings reveals the importance of advanced techniques and landscape ecology principles for effective management and conservation. Understanding mangrove dynamics is crucial for biodiversity and resilience to environmental changes (Erfanifard et al., 2022).

Our WG co-leader investigated mingling-size relationships in Knysna Forest, South Africa, finding that the mingling-size hypothesis is not applicable. This has conservation implications, as size inequality may not be solely influenced by species mingling, indicating additional conservation efforts are necessary. Additionally, T-square distance sampling was implemented for assessing spatial tree diversity indices, revealing its adaptability to different tree patterns and potential for reducing sample sizes compared to traditional methods (Pommerening et al., 2024a, 2024b).

Additionally, recent studies in diverse forest ecosystems across Vietnam by our WG offer valuable insights into spatial dynamics and species interactions within tropical forests. The findings provide crucial insights into forest spatial ecology, crucial in landscape ecology. Spatial point pattern analysis reveals detailed spatial distribution of woody plant species, revealing mechanisms driving coexistence and community structure. Key findings emerge from Con Dao Islands' evergreen broadleaved forests, Southern Vietnam's semi-deciduous forests, and North-Central Vietnam's tropical evergreen forests, exploring distribution patterns and coexistence mechanisms. Analysis showed spatial distributions based on tree size and life-history stages, with aggregation among saplings and shifting patterns as trees grow. Negative interactions between mature and premature trees, alongside seed dispersal and natural self-thinning, shape species associations and spatial distributions. Conspecific interactions dominate at smaller scales, while habitat and topographic variation regulate local spatial distributions. These patterns reflect processes like seed dispersal, natural self-thinning, and habitat heterogeneity. Emphasizing both local and landscape-level factors is essential in landscape ecology. These findings enrich our understanding of how spatial processes shape forest ecosystems, highlighting landscape ecology's relevance in exploring species coexistence and community dynamics. Integrating spatial analyses with landscape ecology frameworks enables deeper insights, informing more effective conservation and management strategies for tropical forests (Nguyen et al., 2022; Ha et al., 2023; Quy et al., 2023).

Erfanifard, Y., Lotfi Nasirabad, M., & Stereńczak, K. (2022). Assessment of Iran’s mangrove forest dynamics (1990–2020) using Landsat time series. Remote Sensing, 14, 4912.

Ha, P., Zhang, S., ai, N., Hue, H., Li, M., & Quy, N. (2023). Spatial association and diversity patterns of dominant tree species in the broadleaved evergreen forest, southern Vietnam. Applied Ecology and Environmental Research, 21(4), 3767-3790.

Pommerening, A., Durrheim, G., & Behrend, A. (2024a). Rare spatio-temporal interactions between conspecific species mingling and size inequality in a diverse Afromontane forest. Forest Ecology and Management, 558, 121787.

Pommerening, A., Sterba, H., & Eskelson, B. (2024b). Distance and T-square sampling for spatial measures of tree diversity. Ecological Indicators, 163, 111995.

Quy, N. V., Hop, N. V., Pham, M. P., & Nguyen, H. H. (2023). Coexistence Mechanisms of Tree Species in an Evergreen Forest on Con Dao Islands, Vietnam. Biology Bulletin, 50(Suppl 4), S717-S733.

Nguyen, Q. V., Pham, H. T., Nguyen, T. T., Pham, M. P., Meng, L., Kang, Y. X., & Nguyen, H. H. (2022). Spatial distribution and association patterns of two dipterocarp tree species in a tropical moist semi-deciduous forest, Southern Vietnam. Biology Bulletin, 49(Suppl 2), S46-S58.


Yousef Erfanifard, PhD (WG leader)
Dept. of Remote Sensing and GIS, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

Arne Pommerening, PhD (Co-WG leader)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences SLU, Faculty of Forest Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management, Umeå, Sweden

Other Members:

  • Hung Bui, PhD
    Forestry Faculty, Vietnam National University of Forestry (VNUF), Hanoi, Vietnam

  • Sima Fakheran, PhD (the president of IALE-Iran)
    Dept. of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Natural Resources, Isfahan University of Technology, Isfahan, Iran

  • Nguyen Hong Hai, PhD
    Faculty of Silviculture, Vietnam National University of Forestry, Hanoi, Vietnam

  • Ion Catalin Petritan
    Dept. of Forest Engineering, Faculty of Silviculture and Forest Engineering, Transylvania University of Brasov, Brasov, Romania




International Association for Landscape Ecology

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