Canadian Forest Service Publications

Forest Connectivity Regions of Canada Using Circuit Theory and Image Analysis. 2017. Pelletier, D., Lapointe, M.-É., Wulder, M.A., White, J.C. , Cardille, J.A. PLoS ONE 12(2): e0169428.

Year: 2017

Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 39002

Language: English

Availability: PDF (download)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0169428

† This site may require a fee

Mark record


Ecological processes are increasingly well understood over smaller areas, yet information regarding interconnections and the hierarchical nature of ecosystems remains less studied and understood. Information on connectivity over large areas with high resolution source information provides for both local detail and regional context. The emerging capacity to apply circuit theory to create maps of omnidirectional connectivity provides an opportunity for improved and quantitative depictions of forest connectivity, supporting the formation and testing of hypotheses about the density of animal movement, ecosystem structure, and related links to natural and anthropogenic forces. In this research, our goal was to delineate regions where connectivity regimes are similar across the boreal region of Canada using new quantitative analyses for characterizing connectivity over large areas (e.g., millions of hectares). Utilizing the Earth Observation for Sustainable Development of forests (EOSD) circa 2000 Landsat-derived land-cover map, we created and analyzed a national-scale map of omnidirectional forest connectivity at 25m resolution over 10000 tiles of 625 km2 each, spanning the forested regions of Canada. Using image recognition software to detect corridors, pinch points, and barriers to movements at multiple spatial scales in each tile, we developed a simple measure of the structural complexity of connectivity patterns in omnidirectional connectivity maps. We then mapped the Circuitscape resistance distance measure and used it in conjunction with the complexity data to study connectivity characteristics in each forested ecozone. Ecozone boundaries masked substantial systematic patterns in connectivity characteristics that are uncovered using a new classification of connectivity patterns that revealed six clear groups of forest connectivity patterns found in Canada. The resulting maps allow exploration of omnidirectional forest connectivity patterns at full resolution while permitting quantitative analyses of connectivity over broad areas, informing modeling, planning and monitoring efforts.

Plain Language Summary

We present a Canada-wide analysis of forest connectivity. The entirety of Canada’s forested ecosystems are represented, resulting in the characterization of a vast area offering insights representing a wide range of forest ecosystems and management conditions. Building on that proof of concept, we model and analyse connectivity for a forest-preferring organism in nearly 10,000 tiles – illustrating both conceptual and computing advances. We develop measures of connectivity linked to both the composition and configuration of landscapes, and use these to reveal forest connectivity regions at a continental scale. This new automation of feature detection allows us to scale up and deepen the analysis substantially from our earlier methods manuscript. Pelletier, D.; Clark, M.; Anderson, M. G; Rayfield, B.; Wulder, M. A., and Cardille, J. A. Applying circuit theory for corridor expansion and management at regional scales: tiling, pinch points, and omnidirectional connectivity. PloS One. 2014; 9(1).