Corridors best facilitate functional connectivity across a protected area network




Stewart, Frances E.C.
Darlington, Siobhan
Volpe, John P.
McAdie, Malcolm
Fisher, Jason T.

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Scientific Reports


Biologging data allow animal ecologists to directly measure species’ fine-scale spatiotemporal responses to environments, such as movement – critical for our understanding of biodiversity declines in the Anthropocene. Animal movement between resource patches is a behavioral expression of multiple ecological processes that affect individual fitness. Protected area (PA) networks are a tool used to conserve biodiversity by sustaining habitat patches across vast heterogeneous landscapes. However, our ability to design PA networks that conserve biodiversity relies on our accurate understanding of animal movement and functional connectivity; this understanding is rarely tested in real-world situations due to the large geographic expanse of most PA networks. Using a tractable PA network mesocosm, we employ cutting-edge biologging technology to analyze animal movement decisions in response to a highly heterogeneous landscape. We analyze these data to test, in a novel way, three common hypotheses about functional connectivity – structural corridors, least cost paths, and stepping stones. Consistently, animals moved along structurally self-similar corridors. In reference to the Aichi 2020 Biodiversity Targets, relying on species to “stepping stone” across habitat remnants may not achieve protected area network conservation objectives.




Stewart, F.E.C., Darlington, S., Volpe, J.P., McAdie, M. & Fisher, J.T. (2019). Corridors best facilitate functional connectivity across a protected area network. Scientific Reports, 9:10852.