Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Functional connectivity for wildlife populations across spatially complex landscapes
by Habberfield, Michael William, Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo, 2016, 262; 10163822
Abstract (Summary)

Integrating animal movement information with the spatial analysis of landscape structure is critical for restoring biological communities in spatially-structured landscapes. This integration can be accomplished by focusing on functional connectivity—a landscape’s potential for the movement of organisms among resource patches—in relation to the spatial and structural connectivity of landscape elements. I carried out three investigations in order to examine how landscape structure interacts with the ecological factors associated with animal movement processes, and thereby produce actionable outcomes for the restoration of wildlife populations. This work combined population- and individual-level data of dispersing wildlife to better resolve the influence of spatial structure on functional connectivity. First, I used a meta-analysis to quantify the relationship between structural and functional connectivity for a broad scope of animal species. Second, I assessed the influence of landscape position and habitat density on colonization, movement, and population dynamics of wood frogs (Lithobates sylvatica) within a network of restored vernal pools. Third, I experimentally evaluated dispersal and habitat selection of green frogs (Lithobates clamitans) within this vernal pool system.

The meta-analysis demonstrated that universal scaling relationships of species and the landscapes they are moving through interact as key drivers mediating the level of functional connectivity afforded to wildlife by structural connectivity. Mark-recapture data revealed rapid colonization of the restored vernal pool network by wood frogs, with subsequently moderate levels of frog movement among neighboring pools. Local pool density interacted with the colonization process and terrestrial habitat availability to limit wood frog productivity within a pool cluster. Experimental dispersal data for green frogs artificially translocated within the pool network showed key differences between movement in familiar and novel environments. Differing movement behaviors and habitat selection patterns indicated that a habitat patch for this species is on the scale of a pool cluster rather than an individual pool. Together, the observed spatial dynamics of these vernal pool amphibians contribute a framework for improving amphibian dispersal modeling, potential responses to rapid environmental changes, and predicting colonization and subsequent population dynamics in restored systems. The results of this dissertation improve our understanding of how spatial structure interacts with organism-specific factors to produce observed patterns of functional connectivity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Larsen, Chris P.S.
Commitee: Bian, Ling, Lasker, Howard R.
School: State University of New York at Buffalo
Department: Geography
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-B 78/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Ecology, Physical geography, Conservation
Keywords: Amphibians, Conservation corridors, Landscape ecology, Spatial ecology, Vernal pools, Wildlife tracking
Publication Number: 10163822
ISBN: 978-1-369-18463-1
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