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Landscape Ecology

, Volume 33, Issue 10, pp 1741–1756 | Cite as

Enhancing connectivity in agroecosystems: focus on the best existing corridors or on new pathways?

  • Olivia Dondina
  • Santiago Saura
  • Luciano Bani
  • María C. Mateo-Sánchez
Research Article

Abstract

Context

Restoring or establishing corridors between residual forest patches is one of the most adopted strategies for the conservation of animal populations and ecosystem processes in fragmented landscapes.

Objectives

This study aimed to assess whether it is more effective to focus restoration actions on existing corridors or to establish habitats in other strategic areas that can create new dispersal pathways to enhance connectivity.

Methods

We considered a real agroecosystem in northern Italy, based our analyses on graph-theory and habitat availability metrics, and focused on the Hazel Dormouse as the target species. We compared the connectivity increase resulting from (i) the simulated restoration of existing priority corridors, i.e., those with significant presence of forest but in which restoration actions would still result in considerable connectivity gains, or (ii) the simulated plantation of 30 hedgerows along new priority pathways, i.e., those areas with no current forest cover in which habitat creation would be more beneficial for connectivity.

Results

Implementing new priority pathways resulted in substantially larger connectivity gains (+ 38%) than when restoration efforts were concentrated in improving already existing corridors (+ 11%).

Conclusions

Establishing hedgerows along new pathways allowed enhancing the complementary and functionality of the full set of landscape corridors and proved more efficient than just strengthening the areas where dispersal flows were already concentrated. We demonstrated the importance of analytical procedures able to compare the effectiveness of different management strategies for enhancing connectivity. Our approach may be applied to multiple species sensitive to fragmentation in other heterogeneous landscapes and geographical contexts.

Keywords

Ecological networks Forest fragmentation Habitat availability metrics Hazel Dormouse Hedgerows Wildlife corridors 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the PhD Funds of the University of Milano-Bicocca.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Milano-BicoccaMilanItaly
  2. 2.Directorate D – Sustainable ResourcesEuropean Commission – Joint Research Centre (JRC)IspraItaly
  3. 3.MONTES (E.T.S.I Montes, Forestal y del Medio Natural)Universidad Politécnica de MadridMadridSpain

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