, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 29-42
Date: 18 Nov 2006

Connectivity in urbanizing landscapes: The importance of habitat configuration, urban area size, and dispersal

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Abstract

Human activities affect both the amount and configuration of habitat. These changes have important ecological implications that can be measured as changes in landscape connectivity. I investigated how urbanization interacts with the initial amount and aggregation of habitat to change dispersal potential, restoration potential, and the risk of spatially extensive disturbances. I used a factorial set of simulated landscapes and subjected each landscape to habitat loss by overlaying 66 different US urban areas. I used a common connectivity metric, CONNECT, to assess the magnitude and direction of changes for a range of dispersal distances. My results show that the relationship between habitat loss and connectivity loss is non-linear and subject to interactions between the spatial patterns of habitat distribution, urban morphology, and dispersal capabilities. The implications of a given urban form vary widely as a function of habitat distribution and dispersal capabilities. This implies that impact assessments, restoration activities, and conservation planning should consider historical habitat distribution when evaluating observed changes in connectivity. While my results clearly show that more aggregated or continuous habitats are more vulnerable to connectivity loss, this approach can also be used to identify landscapes where restoring connectivity will be particularly effective, for example through placement of stepping stone habitats.