Canadian Forest Service Publications

Applying Circuit Theory for Corridor Expansion and Management at Regional Scales: Tiling, Pinch Points, and Omnidirectional Connectivity. 2014. Pelletier, D.; Clark, M.; Anderson, M.G.; Rayfield, B.; Wulder M.A.; Cardille, J.A. PLoS ONE 9(1) e84135, 11p.

Year: 2014

Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 35335

Language: English

Availability: PDF (download)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084135

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Connectivity models are useful tools that improve the ability of researchers and managers to plan land use for conservation and preservation. Most connectivity models function in a point-to-point or patch-to-patch fashion, limiting their use for assessing connectivity over very large areas. In large or highly fragmented systems, there may be so many habitat patches of interest that assessing connectivity among all possible combinations is prohibitive. To overcome these conceptual and practical limitations, we hypothesized that minor adaptation of the Circuitscape model can allow the creation of omnidirectional connectivity maps illustrating flow paths and variations in the ease of travel across a large study area. We tested this hypothesis in a 24,300 km2 study area centered on the Monte´re´gie region near Montre´ al, Que´bec. We executed the circuit model in overlapping tiles covering the study region. Current was passed across the surface of each tile in orthogonal directions, and then the tiles were reassembled to create directional and omnidirectional maps of connectivity. The resulting mosaics provide a continuous view of connectivity in the entire study area at the full original resolution. We quantified differences between mosaics created using different tile and buffer sizes and developed a measure of the prominence of seams in mosaics formed with this approach. The mosaics clearly show variations in current flow driven by subtle aspects of landscape composition and configuration. Shown prominently in mosaics are pinch points, narrow corridors where organisms appear to be required to traverse when moving through the landscape. Using modest computational resources, these continuous, fine-scale maps of nearly unlimited size allow the identification of movement paths and barriers that affect connectivity. This effort develops a powerful new application of circuit models by pinpointing areas of importance for conservation, broadening the potential for addressing intriguing questions about resource use, animal distribution, and movement.