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Abstract

Twenty-three “vital ecosystem attributes” (VEAs) were previously proposed to aid in quantitative evaluation of whole ecosystem structure, composition, and functional complexity over time. We here introduce a series of 16 quantifiable attributes for use at a higher spatial scale and ecological organizational level, the landscape. “Vital landscape attributes” (VLAs) should be useful in evaluating the results of ecological restoration or rehabilitation undertaken with a landscape perspective, provided that clear definitions and boundaries are agreed upon for the different spatial and ecological entities involved. Like VEAs, VLAs should be sensitive to changes wrought by human as well as to nonhuman factors leading to ruptures in flow processes or vegetation “switches.” They should be applicable over a wide range of landscape types and therefore aid in conducting rigorous interlandscape comparisons. We present three groups of VLAs: (1) landscape structure and biotic composition, (2) functional interactions among ecosystems within the landscape, and (3) degree, type, and causes of landscape fragmentation and degradation. Ecotones between ecosystems are touched upon by several different VLAs. Because conflicting terminology abounds in this area, we append a glossary defining the problematic terms used.