Connectivity Conservation and Modelling

Connectivity Conservation and Modelling: A framework for assessing functional connectivity at a global scale using a representative sample of species. Master’s Thesis by Konstantina Spiliopoulou, University of Copenhagen

Biodiversity has been under severe attack the last century. Main strategy to alleviate this phenomenon was to assign areas and species of importance under protection. However, as the fragmentation of the environment progressively increased, the importance of spatial configuration and connectivity was acknowledged. Connectivity is a developing field, and a variety of tools and methods for connectivity assessment already exist. Although connectivity has been studied at different scales and for different taxon groups, a framework for assessing functional connectivity at a global scale with a representative number of species is still missing. This is what we tried to do in this study, by trialling an assessment of the connectivity of forest affiliated bird species in Africa. The framework was developed on an ecoregion level, using Graph theory and habitat availability metrics. More specifically, we used Conefor to calculate the Probability of Connectivity (PC) and the Equivalent Connected Area (ECA). We generated results both at the network and at the species level, including detailed maps and graphs. Important findings of our study are: (1) there is more habitat in the landscape than the species can easily reach, (2) our analysis could improve the PAs network at least in regards to the connectivity of forest affiliated bird species, and (3) our framework can be used for species specific conservation planning. Concluding, there is need for further research towards connectivity, and with room for improvements, our framework can be used in combination with decision support tools in future conservation planning.

This is an output from a project supported by the CCI Collaborative Fund for Conservation.

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Tue, 5 Sep 2017