Light distribution in mesic grasslands: Spatial patterns and temporal dynamics Academic Article uri icon


  • Spatial patterns and temporal dynamics of light distribution were investigated using lacunarity analysis, a multi-scale measure of spatial heterogeneity, in three mesic grasslands with different disturbance regimes. Frequency distributions of relative light intensity (RLI) were similar for the two non-disturbed grasslands, despite different composition (forbs vs. caespitose grass) resulting from different historical disturbance regimes prior to 1985, and different from the annually disturbed grassland. Spatial heterogeneity of light distribution was greater at all scales in the native, annually disturbed grassland than in the two non-disturbed grasslands. The disturbance regime affected temporal dynamics of the spatial patterns of light distribution in each grassland. The annually disturbed grassland exhibited a dramatic decrease in lacunarity (heterogeneity) from early to late April, likely the result of considerable growth of a cool-season grass. A general decrease in lacunarity occurred in the native, non-disturbed grassland, although the magnitude was much less than in the annually disturbed grassland. The reverted, non-disturbed grassland did not exhibit an appreciable change in lacunarity until later in the growing season, and then only at smaller scales. Combining the frequency distribution of RLI and the lacunarity curves provided an effective approach to assess relationships between the dynamics of spatial pattern of light distribution and ecological processes as influenced by different disturbance regimes. Integrating lacunarity analysis with more traditional measurements of grassland ecosystems (plant spatial distribution and arrangement and plant species composition and architecture) may be an effective way to assess functional consequences of structural changes in grassland ecosystems.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Derner, J. D., & Wu, X. B.

citation count

  • 11

publication date

  • December 2001