, Volume 22, Issue 9, pp 1315-1323
Date: 14 Jul 2007

Two measures of landscape-graph connectivity: assessment across gradients in area and configuration

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Abstract

Landscape connectivity is critical to species persistence in the face of habitat loss and fragmentation. Graph theory is a well-defined method for quantifying connectivity that has tremendous potential for ecology, but its application has been limited to a small number of conservation scenarios, each with a fixed proportion of habitat. Because it is important to distinguish changes in habitat configuration from changes in habitat area in assessing the potential impacts of fragmentation, we investigated two metrics that measure these different influences on connectivity. The first metric, graph diameter, has been advocated as a useful measure of habitat configuration. We propose a second area-based metric that combines information on the amount of connected habitat and the amount of habitat in the largest patch. We calculated each metric across gradients in habitat area and configuration using multifractal neutral landscapes. The results identify critical connectivity thresholds as a function of the level of fragmentation and a parallel is drawn between the behavior of graph theory metrics and those of percolation theory. The combination of the two metrics provides a means for targeting sites most at risk of suffering low potential connectivity as a result of habitat fragmentation.