Geographic information systems (GIS) are increasingly being used in environmental impact assessments (EIA) because GIS is useful for analysing spatial impacts of various development scenarios. Spatially representing these impacts provides another tool for landscape ecology in environmental and geographical investigations by facilitating analysis of the effects of landscape patterns on ecological processes and examining change over time. Landscape ecological principles are applied in this study to a hypothetical geothermal development project on the Island of Hawaii. Some common landscape pattern metrics were used to analyse dispersed versus condensed development scenarios and their effect on landscape pattern. Indices of fragmentation and patch shape did not appreciably change with additional development. The amount of forest to open edge, however, greatly increased with the dispersed development scenario. In addition, landscape metrics showed that a human disturbance had a greater simplifying effect on patch shape and also increased fragmentation than a natural disturbance. The use of these landscape pattern metrics can advance the methodology of applying GIS to EIA.