Evaluating the intersection of a regional wildlife connectivity network with highways

Samuel A. Cushman, Jesse S. Lewis, Erin L. Landguth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Reliable predictions of regional-scale population connectivity are needed to prioritize conservation actions. However, there have been few examples of regional connectivity models that are empirically derived and validated. The central goals of this paper were to (1) evaluate the effectiveness of factorial least cost path corridor mapping on an empirical resistance surface in reflecting the frequency of highway crossings by American black bear, (2) predict the location and predicted intensity of use of movement corridors for American black bear, and (3) identify where these corridors cross major highways and rank the intensity of these crossings. Results: We used factorial least cost path modeling coupled with resistant kernel analysis to predict a network of movement corridors across a 30.2 million hectare analysis area in Montana and Idaho, USA. Factorial least cost path corridor mapping was associated with the locations of actual bear highway crossings. We identified corridor-highway intersections and ranked these based on corridor strength. We found that a major wildlife crossing overpass structure was located close to one of the most intense predicted corridors, and that the vast majority of the predicted corridor network was "protected" under federal management. However, narrow, linear corridors connecting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to the rest of the analysis area had limited protection by federal ownership, making these additionally vulnerable to habitat loss and fragmentation. Conclusions: Factorial least cost path modeling coupled with resistant kernel analysis provides detailed, synoptic information about connectivity across populations that vary in distribution and density in complex landscapes. Specifically, our results could be used to quantify the structure of the connectivity network, identify critical linkage nodes and core areas, map potential barriers and fracture zones, and prioritize locations for mitigation, restoration and conservation actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
JournalMovement Ecology
Volume1
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 22 2013

Keywords

  • American black bear
  • Connectivity
  • Corridor
  • Crossing structures
  • Highways
  • Northern rocky mountains
  • Road effects
  • UNICOR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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