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Use of empirically derived source-destination models to map regional conservation corridors

Posted date: February 02, 2009
Publication Year: 
2008
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Conservation Biology. 23(2): 368-376.

Abstract

The ability of populations to be connected across large landscapes via dispersal is critical to longterm viability for many species. One means to mitigate population isolation is the protection of movement corridors among habitat patches. Nevertheless, the utility of small, narrow, linear features as habitat corridors has been hotly debated. Here, we argue that analysis of movement across continuously resistant landscapes allows a shift to a broader consideration of how landscape patterns influence connectivity at scales relevant to conservation. We further argue that this change in scale and definition of the connectivity problem improves one's ability to find solutions and may help resolve long-standing disputes regarding scale and definition of movement corridors and their importance to population connectivity. We used a new method that combines empirically derived landscape-resistance maps and least-cost path analysis between multiple source and destination locations to assess habitat isolation and identify corridors and barriers to organism movement. Specifically, we used a genetically based landscape resistance model for American black bears (Ursus americanus) to identify major movement corridors and barriers to population connectivity between Yellowstone National Park and the Canadian border. Even though western Montana and northern Idaho contain abundant public lands and the largest wilderness areas in the contiguous United States, moving from the Canadian border to Yellowstone Park along those paths indicated by modeled gene flow required bears to cross at least 6 potential barriers. Our methods are generic and can be applied to virtually any species for which reliable maps of landscape resistance can be developed.

Citation

Cushman, Samuel A., Mckelvey, Kevin S.; Schwartz, Michael K. 2009. Use of empirically derived source-destination models to map regional conservation corridors. Conservation Biology. 23(2): 368-376.