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

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, vol. 25, no. 10 , pp. 1547-1560 , doi:

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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
Authors/Creators:Pullinger, MG and Johnson, CJ
Keywords: Animal movement � Corridor � Expert-based model � Fragmentation � Least-cost path � Path deviation index � Resource selection function
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Ecology
ISSN: 1365-2745
DOI / ID Number:
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