Characterising landscape connectivity for conservation planning using a dispersal guild approach
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Land use changes have modified the extent and structure of native vegetation, resulting in fragmentation of native species habitat. Connectivity is increasingly seen as a requirement for effective conservation in these landscapes, but the question remains: ‘connectivity for which species?’.
The aim of this study was to develop and then apply a rapid, expert-based, dispersal guild approach where species are grouped on similar fine-scale dispersal behaviour (such as between scattered trees) and habitat characteristics.
Dispersal guilds were identified using clustering techniques to compare dispersal and habitat parameters elicited from experts. We modelled least-cost paths and corridors between patches and individual movement probabilities within these corridors for each of the dispersal guilds using Circuitscape. We demonstrate our approach with a case study in the Tasmanian Northern Midlands, Australia.
The dispersal guild approach grouped the 12 species into five dispersal guilds. The connectivity modelling of those five guilds found that broadly dispersing species in this landscape, such as medium-sized carnivorous mammals, were unaffected by fragmentation while from the perspective of the three dispersal guilds made up of smaller mammals, the landscape appeared highly fragmented.
Our approach yields biologically defensible outputs that are broadly applicable, particularly for conservation planning where data and resources are limited. It is a useful first step in multi-species conservation planning which aims to identify those species most in need of conservation efforts.
KeywordsConservation biology Conservation planning Connectivity Dispersal Guilds Least-cost paths Landscape planning Corridor Mammals Cluster analysis Multi-species model
This project was funded by the Australian Government Sustainable Regional Development Program in conjunction with the National Environmental Research Program’s Landscapes and Policy research Hub. We would like to thank the following people who contributed to this research Amy Koch, Bronwyn Fancourt, Chris Johnson, Christine Fury, Erik Doerr, Felicity Faulkner, Gareth Davies, Kirsty Dixon, Kirstin Proft, Louise Gilfedder, Mat Appleby, Menna Jones, Neil Davidson, Nick Fitzgerald, Rebecca Harris, Sarah Maclagan, Shannon Troy and Veronica Doerr. We would also like to thank the two peer reviewers (Robby Marrotte and an anonymous reviewer) for their insightful and constructive comments which greatly improved the clarity of the paper.
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