Assessing multi-taxa sensitivity to the human footprint, habitat fragmentation and loss by exploring alternative scenarios of dispersal ability and population size: A simulation approach

Brian K. Hand, Sam A. Cushman, Erin L. Landguth, John Lucotch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Quantifying the effects of landscape change on population connectivity is compounded by uncertainties about population size and distribution and a limited understanding of dispersal ability for most species. In addition, the effects of anthropogenic landscape change and sensitivity to regional climatic conditions interact to strongly affect habitat fragmentation and loss. To further develop conservation theory and to understand the interplay between all of these factors, we simulated habitat fragmentation and loss across the Western United States for several hypothetical species associated with four biome types, and a range of habitat requirements and dispersal abilities. We found dispersal ability and population size of the focal species to be equally sensitive to habitat extent, while dispersal ability is more sensitive to habitat fragmentation. There were also strong critical threshold effects where habitat connectivity decreased disproportionately to decreases in life-history traits making these species near these thresholds more sensitive to changes in habitat loss and fragmentation. Overall, grassland and forest associated species are also most at risk from habitat loss and fragmentation driven by human related land-use. These two largest biome types were most sensitive at large contiguous patch sizes which is often considered most important for metapopulation viability and biodiversity conservation. Hypothetical simulation studies such as this can be of great value to scientists in further conceptualizing and developing conservation theory, and evaluating spatially-explicit scenarios of habitat connectivity. Our results are available for download in a web-based interactive mapping prototype useful for accessing the results of this study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2761-2779
Number of pages19
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Volume23
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2014

Keywords

  • Connectivity modeling
  • Least-cost paths
  • Resistant kernels
  • UNICOR

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