Effects of different matrix representations and connectivity measures on habitat network assessments


Assessing landscape connectivity is important to understand the ecology of landscapes and to evaluate alternative conservation strategies. The question is though, how to quantify connectivity appropriately, especially when the information available about the suitability of the matrix surrounding habitat is limited. Our goal here was to investigate the effects of matrix representation on assessments of the connectivity among habitat patches and of the relative importance of individual patches for the connectivity within a habitat network. We evaluated a set of 50 × 50 km2 test areas in the Carpathian Mountains and considered three different matrix representations (binary, categorical and continuous) using two types of connections among habitat patches (shortest lines and least-cost paths). We compared connections, and the importance of patches, based on (1) isolation, (2) incidence-functional, and (3) graph measures. Our results showed that matrix representation can greatly affect assessments of connections (i.e., connection length, effective distance, and spatial location), but not patch prioritization. Although patch importance was not much affected by matrix representation, it was influenced by the connectivity measure and its parameterization. We found the biggest differences in the case of the integral index of connectivity and equally weighted patches, but no consistent pattern in response to changing dispersal distance. Connectivity assessments in more fragmented landscapes were more sensitive to the selection of matrix representation. Although we recommend using continuous matrix representation whenever possible, our results indicated that simpler matrix representations can be also used as a proxy to delineate those patches that are important for overall connectivity, but not to identify connections among habitat patches.

Landscape Ecology, 29(9) 1551-1570
Tobias Kuemmerle
Tobias Kuemmerle
Professor & Head of the Conservation Biogeography Lab