Landscape Ecology

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 275–287 | Cite as

Ecological network design from occurrence data by simulating species perception of the landscape

  • Olivia Dondina
  • Valerio Orioli
  • Lorenza Colli
  • Massimiliano Luppi
  • Luciano Bani
Research Article



Ecological networks are often designed based on the degree of suitability and permeability of land cover classes, as obtained by estimating the statistical relationships between occurrence data and classes coverage using habitat suitability models (HSMs). Considering only the classes coverage, but not their spatial arrangement, frequently prevents HSMs from correctly identifying nodes and connectivity elements.


We propose a new approach in the design of ecological networks starting from the relationship between occurrence data and both land cover classes coverage and spatial arrangement, as calculated for different simulated species perceptions of the landscape (SSPLs, corresponding to different combinations of classes alternatively assuming the role of nodes, connectivity elements, or matrix).


The approach consists of comparing the ability to explain the observed species occurrence of both the nodes coverage and the connectivity degree provided by both nodes and connectivity elements, calculated for each SSPL. The better performing SSPL will provide information about the land cover classes that should be considered in designing an ecological network for the species, as well as their role in the network.


When applied to the Hazel Dormouse in an agricultural landscape in northern Italy, the method proved effective and allowed us to identify woodlands and hedgerows as nodes, and poplar cultivations, biomasses and reforestations as connectivity elements.


The proposed method can be adopted to identify nodes and connectivity elements for virtually every species sensitive to fragmentation, and has important practical implications when integrated in landscape management plans developed to guarantee ecological connectivity.


Tree plantations Connectivity Forests Fragmentation Hazel Dormouse Hedgerows 



This study was supported by the Research Fund of the University of Milano-Bicocca. We thank Valeria Cardinale, Giorgio Desperati, Pamela D’Occhio, Leila Kataoka and Francesca Codina for their help in the field surveys. We are very grateful to Dr. Matteo Bonetti for language revision. We also thank two anonymous referees for their useful suggestions that helped improve the paper.


This study was funded by the Research Fund of the University of Milano-Bicocca.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10980_2017_600_MOESM1_ESM.docx (23 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 23 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Milano-BicoccaMilanItaly

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