What is a macrophyte patch? Patch identification in aquatic ecosystems and guidelines for consistent delineation

Jonas Schoelynck, Stéphan Creëlle, Kerst Buis, Tom De Mulder, Willem Jan Emsens, Thomas Hein, Dieter Meire, Patrick Meire, Tomasz Okruszko, Stefan Preiner, Rebeca Roldan Gonzalez, Alexandra Silinski, Stijn Temmerman, Peter Troch, Tomas Van Oyen, Veerle Verschoren, Fleur Visser, Chen Wang, Jan Willem Wolters, Andrew Folkard

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Patches are of central interest to many areas of environmental science because they provide a lower limit of structural detail in synoptic studies, and an upper limit of contextual structure for point measurement-based studies. Identification and delineation of macrophyte patches however, is often arbitrary and case-specific. In this paper we propose a widely-applicable set of guidelines for delineating a “patch” and “patch matrix” – the latter implying a collection of interacting patches – which could standardise future research. To support this proposal, we examine examples from eco-hydrological studies, focusing on interactions between plants, water flow, sediment, and invertebrates. We discuss three aspects that are key to the delineation of a patch: (1) constitution (variable(s) whose values define the patch), (2) spatial properties (patch boundaries), and (3) distinction (of isolated single patches from multiple separate-but-interacting patches). The discussion of these aspects results in guidelines for identifying and delineating a patch which is applicable to any aquatic habitat, and covers a broad range of disciplines such as plant and animal ecology, biogeochemistry, hydraulics, and sedimentology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalEcohydrology and Hydrobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Ecohydrology
  • Landscape ecology
  • Macrophytes
  • Pattern identification
  • Plant-flow interaction
  • Spatial scales

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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