Ecological land classification

Ecological land classification is a cartographical delineation or regionalisation of distinct ecological areas, identified by their geology, topography, soils, vegetation, climate conditions, living species, habitats, water resources, and sometimes also anthropic factors.[1] These factors control and influence biotic composition and ecological processes.


The expression "ecological land classification" as understood in this article, is approximate with the biogeographical and ecological regionalisations in a scientific context (see biogeographic units).

However, its actual usage is more approximate with a tool used for land management, in the context of environmental resource management.[2][3]

In Canada ecological land classification schemes are commonly used.[4] Provincial authorities have adopted methods to classify ecosystems within various ecoregions of the province. Ontario is one such province that uses an extensive method to define ecological units.[5] Improvements in hand held technology have allowed for more efficient collection of vegetation and physiological data in the field, such as with the ELC eTool.[6]

Classification typesEdit

Many different lists and ecological land classification schemes have been developed.[7][8][9]

Approaches to classificationsEdit

American geographer Robert Bailey defines a hierarchy of ecosystem units ranging from micro-ecosystems (individual homogeneous sites, in the order of 10 square kilometres (4 sq mi) in area), through meso-ecosystems (landscape mosaics, in the order of 1,000 square kilometres (400 sq mi)) to macro-ecosystems (ecoregions, in the order of 100,000 square kilometres (40,000 sq mi)).[10]

Bailey outlined five different methods for identifying ecosystems: gestalt ("a whole that is not derived through considerable of its parts"), in which regions are recognized and boundaries drawn intuitively; a map overlay system where different layers like geology, landforms and soil types are overlain to identify ecosystems; multivariate clustering of site attributes; digital image processing of remotely sensed data grouping areas based on their appearance or other spectral properties; or by a "controlling factors method" where a subset of factors (like soils, climate, vegetation physiognomy or the distribution of plant or animal species) are selected from a large array of possible ones are used to delineate ecosystems.[11]

In contrast with Bailey's methodology, Puerto Rico ecologist Ariel Lugo and coauthors identified ten characteristics of an effective classification system. For example that it be based on georeferenced, quantitative data; that it should minimize subjectivity and explicitly identify criteria and assumptions; that it should be structured around the factors that drive ecosystem processes; that it should reflect the hierarchical nature of ecosystems; that it should be flexible enough to conform to the various scales at which ecosystem management operates.[12]

Classification schemesEdit

Following, a comparison of classification schemes and terms used in the study of the biotic and abiotic components of ecosystems and the Earth in ecology and other fields.[citation needed]


In ecology:[citation needed]


In biogeography:[citation needed]


Realm- or Ecozone-relatedEdit


In zoogeography:[citation needed]


In phytogeography:[citation needed]



For the physiognomic approach, see Vegetation#Classifications.

For the association (phytosociological) approach, see Phytosociology#Classificatory traditions.


In physiography:[citation needed]


In Geology:[citation needed]


In pedology:


Köppen (1884)Edit

  • Main climate group, 5 groups, 1st letter
    • Type of precipitation pattern, 2nd letter
      • Subtype, degree of summer heat, 3rd letter


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Kellogg, Charles (February 1933). "A Method for the Classification of Rural Lands for Assessment in Western North Dakota". The Journal of Land & Public Utility Economics. 9 (1): 12. JSTOR 3138756.
  2. ^ Miller, M.R. 1981. Ecological land classification terrestrial subsystem: a basic inventory system for planning and management on the Mark Twain National Forest. USDA Forest Service, Eastern Region. 56 pp., [1].
  3. ^ Williamson, J. C., Bestelmeyer, B. T., McClaran, M. P., Robinett, D., Briske, D. D., Wu, X. B., & Fernández-Giménez, M. E. (2016). Can ecological land classification increase the utility of vegetation monitoring data?. Ecological Indicators 69: 657–666.
  4. ^ Wicken, E. B. 1986. Terrestrial ecozones of Canada. Environment Canada. Ecological Land Classification Series No. 19. Lands Directorate, Ottawa. 26 pp.
  5. ^ "Introduction to ecological land classification systems". Queen’s Printer for Ontario. May 3, 2019.
  6. ^ [2].
  7. ^ Part of the list proposed below is inspired by Miklos Udvardy classification of the Biographical Provinces in the World which was prepared by Unesco's Man and the Biosphere program, published in 1975 and updated in 1982.
  8. ^ Udvardy, M. D. F. (1975). A classification of the biogeographical provinces of the world. IUCN Occasional Paper no. 18. Morges, Switzerland: IUCN, [3].
  9. ^
  10. ^ Bailey, Robert G. (2009). "Chapter 2". Ecosystem Geography (Second ed.). New York: Springer. pp. 25-28. ISBN 978-0-387-89515-4.
  11. ^ Bailey, Robert G. (2009). "Chapter 3". Ecosystem Geography (Second ed.). New York: Springer. pp. 29–40. ISBN 978-0-387-89515-4.
  12. ^ Lugo, A. E.; S.L. Brown; R. Dodson; T.S. Smith; H.H. Shugart (1999). "The Holdridge life zones of the conterminous United States in relation to ecosystem mapping" (PDF). Journal of Biogeography. 26 (5): 1025–1038. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2699.1999.00329.x.


  • Gregorich, E. G., and et al. "Soil and Environmental Science Dictionary." Canadian ecological land classification system, pp 111 (2001). Canadian Society of Soil Science. CRC Press LLC. ISBN 0-8493-3115-3.
  • Klijn, F., and H. A. Udo De Haes. 1994. "A hierarchical approach to ecosystems and its implications for ecological land classification." In: Landscape Ecology vol. 9 no. 2 pp 89–104 (1994). The Hague, SPB Academic Publishing bv.

External linksEdit