Quantifying landscape connectivity through the use of connectivity response curves
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- Ernst, B.W. Landscape Ecol (2014) 29: 963. doi:10.1007/s10980-014-0046-7
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Habitat connectivity is an essential component of biodiversity conservation. Simulated landscapes were manipulated to quantify the impact of changes to the amount, fragmentation and dispersion of habitat on a widely applied landscape connectivity metric, the probability of connectivity index. Index results for different landscape scenarios were plotted against the dispersal distances used for their calculation to create connectivity response curves for each scenario. Understanding index response to controlled changes in landscape structure at a range of spatial scales can be used to give context to comparison of alternative landscape management scenarios. Increased amounts of habitat, decreased fragmentation and decreased inter-patch distances resulted in increased connectivity index values. Connectivity response curves demonstrated increases in assessed connectivity for scenarios with continuous corridors or “stepping stone” connectors. The sensitivity of connectivity response curves to controlled changes in landscape structure indicate that this approach is able to detect and distinguish between different types of landscape changes, but that delineation of habitat and method of quantifying dispersal probability incorporate assumptions that must be recognized when interpreting results to guide landscape management. Representing landscape connectivity in this manner allows for the impacts of alternative landscape management strategies to be compared visually through comparative plots, or statistically through the parameters that describe connectivity response curves.