, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 91-101
Date: 05 Nov 2010

Analyses of least cost paths for determining effects of habitat types on landscape permeability: wolves in Poland

Abstract

Determining ecological corridors is crucial for conservation efforts in fragmented habitats. Commonly employed least cost path (LCP) analysis relies on the underlying cost matrix. By using Ecological Niche Factor Analysis, we minimized the problems connected with subjective cost assessment or the use of presence/absence data. We used data on the wolf presence/absence in Poland to identify LCPs connecting patches of suitable wolf habitat, factors that influence patch occupancy, and compare LCPs between different genetic subpopulations. We found that a lower proportion of cities and roads surrounds the most densely populated patches. Least cost paths between areas where little dispersal takes place (i.e., leading to unpopulated patches or between different genetic subpopulations) ran through a higher proportion of roads and human settlements. They also crossed larger maximal distances over deforested areas. We propose that, apart from supplying the basis for direct conservation efforts, LCPs can be used to determine what factors might facilitate or hinder dispersal by comparing different subsets of LCPs. The methods employed can be widely applicable to gain more in-depth information on potential dispersal barriers for large carnivores.

Communicated by: Krzysztof Schmidt