, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 17-39

Using patch isolation metrics to predict animal movement in binary landscapes

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Habitat isolation can affect the distribution and abundance of wildlife, but it is an ambiguous attribute to measure. Presumably, isolation is a characteristic of a habitat patch that reflects how spatially inaccessible it is to dispersing organisms. We identified four isolation metrics (nearest-neighbor distance, Voronoi polygons, proximity index, and habitat buffers) that were representative of the different families of metrics that are commonly used in the literature to measure patch isolation. Using simulated data, we evaluated the ability of each isolation metric to predict animal dispersal. We examined the simulated movement of organisms in two types of landscapes: an artificially-generated point-pattern landscapes where patch size and shape were consistent and only the arrangement of patches varied, and realistic landscapes derived from a geographic information system (GIS) of forest-vegetation maps where patch size, shape, and isolation were variable. We tested the performance of the four isolation metrics by examining the strength of the correlation between observed immigration rate in the simulations and each patch isolation metric. We also evaluated whether each isolation metric would perform consistently under varying conditions of patch size/shape, total amount of habitat in the landscape, and proximity of the patch to the landscape edge. The results indicate that a commonly-used distance-based metric, nearest-neighbor distance, did not adequately predict immigration rate when patch size and shape were variable. Area-informed isolation metrics, such as the amount of available habitat within a given radius of a patch, were most successful at predicting immigration. Overall, the use of area-informed metrics is advocated despite the limitation that these metrics require parameterization to reflect the movement capacity of the organism studied.

This revised version was published online in May 2005 with corrections to the Cover Date.