This work introduces a new class of landscape metrics characterizing basic features of patch perimeters. Specific computation on patch perimeters was carried out on fine-grained land-use maps with the aim to characterize spatial patterns of neighbor patches, evidencing contact points and perimeter length between two (or more) land-use types. A detailed set of class and landscape metrics were derived from such analysis. This approach is complementary to classical landscape metrics and proved to be particularly useful to characterize complex, fragmented landscapes profiling metropolitan regions based on integrated evaluations of their structural (landscape) and functional (land-use) organization. A multivariate analysis was run to characterize distinctive spatial patterns of the selected metrics in four metropolitan regions of southern Europe reflecting different morphological configurations (Barcelona: compact, polycentric; Lisbon: dispersed, mono-centric; Rome: dispersed, polycentric; and Athens: compact, mono-centric). Perimeter metrics assumed different values for each investigated land-use type, with peculiar characteristics associated to each city. Land-use types assessing residential, discontinuous urban patches were associated to particularly high values of perimeter metrics, possibly indicating patch fragmentation, spatially-associated distribution of land-use types and landscape complexity. Multivariate analysis indicates substantial differences among cities, reflecting the range of morphological configurations described above (from compact mono-centric to dispersed polycentric) and suggesting that urban expansion is accompanied with multiple modifications in the use of the surrounding non-urban land. The computational approach proposed in this study and based on spatially-explicit metrics of landscape configuration and proximity may reflect latent changes in local socio-spatial structures. Our results demonstrate that scattered urban expansion determines a polarization in suburban areas with highly fragmented and more homogeneous landscapes, respectively, associated with mixed cropland and forest systems.
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