Let’s review: recent summaries of connectivity research

Need to take a step back and catch up?  Recent reviews of the past six month have focused on a wide variety of connectivity topics, from animal behavior to marine ecosystems and the applications of landscape genetics.  Here are a few findings from these reviews that describe the current status of connectivity research:

  • Almost 70% of studies on the potential for anthropogenic linear gaps, such as roads and trails, to support higher plant abundance or diversity found that these gaps did have higher diversity and/or abundance than adjacent habitats.  However, there was a strong bias towards studying exotic species, and little research on the mechanism by which linear gaps might increase plant abundance and diversity.

Suárez-Esteban, A., L. Fahrig, M. Delibes, and J. M. Fedriani. 2016. Can anthropogenic linear gaps increase plant abundance and diversity? Landscape Ecology 31(4): 721-729.

  • Over a decade has passed since the emergence of arguments that habitat loss and habitat fragmentation should be considered as independent processes, but only 18% of studies have done so.  More conservation insight might be gained by explicitly separating the two in research.

Hadley, A. S., and M. G. Betts. 2016. Refocusing habitat fragmentation research using lessons from the last decade. Current Landscape Ecology Reports 1(2): 55-66.

  • Aquatic ecosystem research varies in focus: studies in overharvesting dominate marine ecosystem research, while studies of habitat modification dominate freshwater ecosystem research.  Few studies have directly assessed the impact of climate change on aquatic ecosystems overall, particularly those studies that use graph theory.  Graph theory may be most effective to look at functional connectivity of aquatic ecosystems, since it can be quickly used to assess how a management strategy affects connectivity.

Saunders, M. L., C. J. Brown, M. M. Foley, C. M. Febria, R. Albright, M. G. Mehling, M. T. Kavanaugh, and D. D. Burfiend. 2016. Human impacts on connectivity in marine and freshwater ecosystems assessed using graph theory: a review. Marine and Freshwater Research 67(3): 277-290.

  • Using resource selection functions to estimate landscape resistance may be misleading if they do not also incorporate movement behavior.  Most connectivity studies fail to do so, potentially emphasizing sub-optimal linkages in the landscape.

Abrahms, B., S. C. Sawyer, N. R. Jordan, J. W. McNutt, A. M. Wilson, and J. S. Brashares. 2016. Does wildlife resource selection accurately inform corridor conservation? Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12714.

How much does animal behavior matter in corridor planning? (June 2016)

  • Over the past decade, the number of published studies on quantifying landscape connectivity and its effect on biodiversity has increased almost eight-fold, with an increase in measures of functional connectivity over structural connectivity. Over half of the studies do not test for the effects of connectivity, but almost all that do found effects on biodiveristy, with the majority positive.

Fletcher Jr., R. J., N. S. Burrell, B. E. Reichert, D. Vasudev, and J. D. Austin. 2016. Divergent perspectives on landscape connectivity reveal consistent effects from genes to communities. Current Landscape Ecology Reports 1(2): 67-79.

2017-04-14T16:14:23-04:00 August 26th, 2016|

About the Author:

Heather Cayton
Heather Cayton is the Managing Director of ConservationCorridor.org and a Research Assistant at Michigan State University. She received her B.S. from the University of Virginia and her M.S. from Virginia Tech, and has spent over 10 years studying corridors and rare butterflies in North Carolina.