Measuring landscape connectivity: On the importance of within-patch connectivity
Many connectivity metrics have been used to measure the connectivity of a landscape and to evaluate the effects of land-use changes and potential mitigation measures. However, there are still gaps in our understanding of how to accurately quantify landscape connectivity.
A number of metrics only measure between-patch connectivity, i.e. the connectivity between different habitat patches, which can produce misleading results. This paper demonstrates that the inclusion of within-patch connectivity is important for accurate results.
The behavior of two metrics is compared: the Connectance Index (CONNECT), which measures only between-patch connectivity, and the effective mesh size (meff), which includes both within-patch and between-patch connectivity. The connectivity values of both metrics were calculated on a set of simulated landscapes. Twenty cities were then added to these landscapes to calculate the resulting changes in connectivity.
We found that when using CONNECT counter-intuitive results occurred due to not including within-patch connectivity, such as scenarios where connectivity increased with increasing habitat loss and fragmentation. These counter-intuitive results were resolved when using meff. For example, landscapes with low habitat amount may be particularly sensitive to urban development, but this is not reflected by CONNECT.
Applying misleading results from metrics like CONNECT can have detrimental effects on natural ecosystems, because reductions in within-patch connectivity by human activities are neglected. Therefore, this paper provides evidence for the crucial need to consider the balance between within-patch connectivity and between-patch connectivity when calculating the connectivity of landscapes.
KeywordsBetween-patch connectivity CONNECT Connectance Connectedness Effective mesh size Fragmentation per se Habitat connectivity Inter-patch connectivity Intra-patch connectivity Landscape metrics
We are very thankful to Nicolas Dziemian for writing code in Excel for automated calculation of meff for large numbers of landscapes and to Naghmeh Nazarnia, Marco Burelli, Jonathan Cole, and Judith Plante for helpful comments and technical support.
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