Landscape connectivity and animal behavior: functional grain as a key determinant for dispersal
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Landscape connectivity can be viewed from two perspectives that could be considered as extremes of a gradient: functional connectivity (refers to how the behavior of a dispersing organism is affected by landscape structure and elements) and structural connectivity (depends on the spatial configuration of habitat patches in the landscape like vicinity or presence of barriers). Here we argue that dispersal behavior changes with landscape configuration stressing the evolutionary dimension that has often been ignored in landscape ecology. Our working hypothesis is that the functional grain of resource patches in the landscape is a crucial factor shaping individual movements, and therefore influencing landscape connectivity. Such changes are likely to occur on the short-term (some generations). We review empirical studies comparing dispersal behavior in landscapes differing in their fragmentation level, i.e., with variable resource grain. We show that behavioral variation affecting each of the three stages of the dispersal process (emigration, displacement or transfer in the matrix, and immigration) is indeed likely to occur according to selective pressures resulting from changes in the grain of the landscape (mortality or deferred costs). Accordingly, landscape connectivity results from the interaction between the dispersal behavior of individuals and the grain of each particular landscape. The existence of this interaction requires that connectivity estimates (being based on individual-based models, least cost distance algorithms, and structural connectivity metrics or even Euclidian distance) should be carefully evaluated for their applicability with respect to the required level of precision in species-specific and landscape information.