, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 239-250
Date: 08 Nov 2005

Restoring habitat corridors in fragmented landscapes using optimization and percolation models

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Landscape fragmentation and habitat loss are significant threats to the conservation of biological diversity. Creating and restoring corridors between isolated habitat patches can help mitigate or reverse the impacts of fragmentation. It is important that restoration and protection efforts be undertaken in the most efficient and effective way possible because conservation budgets are often severely limited. We address the question of where restoration should take place to efficiently reconnect habitat with a landscape-spanning corridor. Building upon findings in percolation theory, we develop a shortest-path optimization methodology for assessing the minimum amount of restoration needed to establish such corridors. This methodology is applied to large numbers of simulated fragmented landscapes to generate mean and variance statistics for the amount of restoration needed. The results provide new information about the expected level of resources needed to realize different corridor configurations under different degrees of fragmentation and different characterizations of habitat connectivity (“neighbor rules”). These results are expected to be of interest to conservation planners and managers in the allocation of conservation resources to restoration projects.