The effects of future urban development on habitat fragmentation in the Santa Monica Mountains

Jennifer J. Swenson, Janet Franklin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


A site suitability model of urban development was created for the Santa Monica Mountains in southern California, USA, to project to what degree future development might fragment the natural habitat. The purpose was to help prioritize land acquisition for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and examine to what extent projected urban development would affect distinct vegetation classes. The model included both environmental constraints (slope angle), and spatial factors related to urban planning (proximity to roads and existing development, proposed development, and areas zoned for development). It implemented a stochastic component; areas projected to have high development potential in the suitability model were randomly selected for development. Ownership tracts were used as the spatial unit of development in order to give the model spatial realism and not arbitrarily 'develop' grid cells. Using different assumptions and parameters, the model projected the pattern of development from ∼ 5 to ∼ 25 years hence (based on recent development rates in the area). While < 25% of the remaining natural landscape is removed under these scenarios, up to 30% of core (interior) habitat area is lost and edge length between natural vegetation and development increases as much as 45%. Measures of landscape shape complexity increased with area developed and number of patches of natural habitat increased four- to nine-fold, depending upon model parameters. This increase in fragmentation occurs because of the existing patterns of land ownership, where private ('developable') land is interspersed with preserved park lands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-730
Number of pages18
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2000


  • Coastal sage scrub
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Land use change
  • Landscape pattern indices
  • Santa Monica Mountains
  • Simulation modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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