Recognizing land cover heterogeneity is essential for the assessment of spatial patterns to guide conservation planning. One of the top research priorities is the quantification of land cover heterogeneity using effective landscape metrics. However, due to the diversity of land cover types and their varied distribution, a consistent, larger-scale, and standardized framework for heterogeneity information extraction from this complex perspective is still lacking. Consequently, we developed a new Land Cover Complexity Index (LCCI), which is based on information-theory. The LCCI contains two foundational aspects of heterogeneity, composition and configuration, thereby capturing more comprehensive information on land cover patterns than any single metric approach. In this study, we compare the performance of the LCCI with that of other landscape metrics at two different scales, and the results show that our newly developed indicator more accurately characterizes and distinguishes different land cover patterns. LCCI provides an alternative way to measure the spatial variation of land cover distribution. Classification maps of land cover heterogeneity generated using the LCCI provide valuable insights and implications for regional conservation planning. Thus, the LCCI is shown to be a consistent indicator for the quantification of land cover heterogeneity that functions in an adaptive way by simultaneously considering both composition and configuration.
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