Measuring functional connectivity with long-term data

Functional connectivity refers to the landscape’s role in allowing organisms to move between habitat fragments. Traditionally, researchers estimated movement between patches directly using capture-recapture models, or indirectly by estimating genetic divergence between populations. In a recent paper however, Powney and coworkers proposed measuring functional connectivity through population synchrony, or similarity in dynamics between potentially connected populations.

Using data from long-term butterfly counts obtained by volunteer recorders, Powney and coworkers estimated synchrony as the pair-wise correlation in population abundance at a number of fixed transects, and a corresponding measure of landscape permeability using species distribution models. By comparing these two estimates, the authors’ predictions held, that there is a positive relationship between landscape permeability and population synchrony, especially over longer distances. This study shows great promise in using long-term monitoring data to measure connectivity across landscapes.


Powney, G. D., D. B. Roy, D. Chapman, T. Brereton, and T. H. Oliver. 2011. Measuring functional connectivity using long-term monitoring data. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 2:527-533. (E-mail:

A video of the scientists discussing their article

2016-10-14T10:11:17+00:00 August 29th, 2012|

About the Author:

Johnny Wilson
Johnny Wilson is a PhD student at North Carolina State University, focusing on conservation planning in a changing world. Originally from South Africa, he received his MSc at the University of Pretoria. He constantly struggles to find enough time for birdwatching.