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Maintaining or restoring connectivity of modified landscapes: evaluating the least-cost path model with multiple sources of ecological information


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Pullinger, MG and Johnson, CJ (2010) Maintaining or restoring connectivity of modified landscapes: evaluating the least-cost path model with multiple sources of ecological information. Journal of Ecology, 25 (10). pp. 1547-1560. ISSN 1365-2745

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Abstract Habitat connectivity is an important element of functioning landscapes for mobile organisms. Maintenance or creation of movement corridors is one conservation strategy for reducing the negative effects of habitat fragmentation. Numerous spatial models exist to predict the location of movement corridors. Few studies, however, have investigated the effectiveness of these methods for predicting actual movement paths. We used an expert-based model and a resource selection function (RSF) to predict least-cost paths of woodland caribou. Using independent data for model evaluation, we found that the expert-based model was a poor predictor of long-distance animal movements; in comparison, the RSF model was effective at predicting habitat selection by caribou. We used the Path Deviation Index (PDI), cumulative path cost, and sinuosity to quantitatively compare the spatial differences between inferred caribou movement paths and predicted least-cost paths, and quasi-random null models of directional movement. Predicted movement paths were on average straighter than inferred movement paths for collared caribou. The PDI indicated that the least-cost paths were no better at predicting the inferred paths than either of two null models—straight line paths and randomly generated paths. We found statistically significant differences in cumulative cost scores for the main effects of model and path type; however, post-hoc comparisons were non-significant suggesting no difference among inferred, random, and predicted least cost paths. Paths generated from an expert based cost surface were more sinuous than those premised on the RSF model, but neither differed from the inferred path. Although our results are specific to one species, they highlight the importance of model evaluation when planning for habitat connectivity. We recommend that conservation planners adopt similar techniques when validating the effectiveness of movement corridors for other populations and species.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Animal movement � Corridor � Expert-based model � Fragmentation � Least-cost path � Path deviation index � Resource selection function
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Ecology
Page Range: pp. 1547-1560
ISSN: 1365-2745
Identification Number - DOI: 10.1007/s10980-010-9526-6
Additional Information: The original publication is available at
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2010 04:57
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2014 04:14
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