, Volume 109, Issue 1-3, pp 199-225

A Spatial Model to Estimate Habitat Fragmentation and Its Consequences on Long-Term Persistence of Animal Populations

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Abstract

The increasing use of the landscape by humans has led to important diminutions of natural surfaces. The remaining patches of wild habitat are small and isolated from each other among a matrix of inhospitable land-uses. This habitat fragmentation, by disabling population movements and stopping their spread to new habitats, is a major threat to the survival of numerous plant and animal species. We developed a general model, adaptable for specific species, capable of identifying suitable habitat patches within fragmented landscapes and investigating the capacity of populations to move between these patches. This approach combines GIS analysis of a landscape, with spatial dynamic modeling. Suitable habitat is identified using a threshold area to perimeter ratio. Potential movement pathways of species between habitat patches are modeled using a cellular automaton. Habitat connectivity is estimated by overlaying habitat patches with movement pathways. The maximum potential population is calculated within and between connected habitat patches and potential risk of inbreeding within meta-populations is considered. The model was tested on a sample map and applied to scenario maps of predicted land-use change in the Peoria Tri-county region (IL). It (1) showed area of natural area alone was insufficient to estimate the consequences on animal populations; (2) underscored the necessity to use approaches investigating the effect of land-use change spatially through the landscape and the importance of considering species-specific life history characteristics; and (3) highlighted the model's potential utility as an indicator of species likelihood to be affected negatively by land-use scenarios and therefore requiring detailed investigation.