Concept of Landscape Design
One method of describing landscapes divides a landscape into three basic elements: patches, corridors or buffers, and matrix (fig. 2).
Figure 2 — The landscape described in basic landscape ecology terms.
Patch: A relatively small area that has distinctly different structure and function than the surrounding landscape.
Corridor or Buffer: A linear patch typically having certain enhanced functions due to its linear shape (see box on next page).
Matrix: The background within which patches and buffers exist.
In developed landscapes, patches are often remnant areas of woodland or prairie, corridors are linear elements such as windbreaks, fencerows, and riparian areas, and the matrix is often developed lands such as cropland or urban areas.
While this guide focuses on designing buffers, the patches and matrix areas must be considered in the design process to help achieve many desired objectives. Location, structure, and management of nearby patches and matrix influence the types of functions that buffers will perform and their effectiveness.
Buffer installations may be ineffective if they are designed without an understanding of landscape processes. For example, buffers installed for streambank stabilization may be ineffective in an urbanizing watershed unless they account for stream flows that are dramatically increasing due to impervious cover.
Buffers are only one tool in the planner?s tool box. Planners need to be realistic in applying buffers, acknowledging both the strengths and limitations of buffers to solve and manage resource concerns.