Baltic Sea Region Territorial Monitoring System

Fragmentation index

Indicator definition

Two different indicator definitions were developed by the EEA for the landscape fragmentation index: (i) the effective mesh size (MEFF) for fragmentation geometry gives the average mesh size in km2 per unit. The higher this number, the less fragmentation is a region. (ii) the effective mesh density (SEFF) for fragmentation geometry gives the number of meshes per 1,0000 km2. The higher this number, the more fragmented a region is.

Beyond this definition, the EEA offers three levels of fragmentation computations, differing in the extent as to which fragmenting elements are included. In TeMo, the fragmentation index accounting for all antrophogenic and natural fragmentation elements (EEA code: FG-B2) has been selected as the most suitable one.

Indicator importance

While excessive land take can be considered per se as negative burden for the environment and for the wildlife, the situation becomes even more complex when looking at the connectivity and size of the remaining habitat patches. For many wild animals, not only the reduction of habitat size is problematic, but also all the more the loss in connectivity of habitats causes additional stress. The fragmentation index tries to assess the size and fragmentation of open space.

Findings

The landscape fragmentation in the BSR is highest in Germany and large parts of Poland, followed by the south of Finland, Denmark and Lithuania. Generally, the farther north a region is located, the less fragmented it is, with the largest unfragmented areas being situated in the north of Norway, Sweden and Finland. However, the south and east of Poland, and Latvia and Estonia show low fragmentation levels as well.

The general fragmentation patterns have not changed in the (rather short) time period of 2002-2009, however, a slight increase in fragmentation even in parts of northern Sweden and in Finland can be observed.

While the indicator at NUTS-3 level indicates generally a smooth increase of fragmentation from the North to the South in the BSR, the same indicator at grid level illustrates that fragmentation is an issue even in the northernmost areas, and that one can observe unfragmented areas even in Poland and Germany - though rather small in size.