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The purpose of the current work is to propose, under a statistical framework, a family of unsupervised region merging techniques providing a set of the most relevant region-based explanations of an image at different levels of analysis. These techniques are characterized by general and nonparametric region models, with neither color nor texture homogeneity assumptions, and a set of innovative merging criteria, based on information theory statistical measures. The scale consistency of the partitions is assured through i) a size regularization term into the merging criteria and a classical merging order, or ii) using a novel scale-based merging order to avoid the region size homogeneity imposed by the use of a size regularization term. Moreover, a partition significance index is defined to automatically determine the subset of most representative partitions from the created hierarchy. Most significant automatically extracted partitions show the ability to represent the semantic content of the image from a human point of view. Finally, a complete and exhaustive evaluation of the proposed techniques is performed, using not only different databases for the two main addressed problems (object-oriented segmentation of generic images and texture image segmentation), but also specific evaluation features in each case: under- and oversegmentation error, and a large set of region-based, pixel-based and error consistency indicators, respectively. Results are promising, outperforming in most indicators both object-oriented and texture state-of-the-art segmentation techniques.