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Climate change and connectivity: Assessing landscape and species vulnerability


Start Date
End Date
Start Date
2010-06-16 05:00:00
End Date
2011-05-18 05:00:00


Samuel A. Cushman(Principal Investigator), Erin L. Landguth(Author), Curtis H. Flather(Author), Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative(administrator), 2010-06-16(Start), 2011-05-18(End), Climate change and connectivity: Assessing landscape and species vulnerability


Habitat loss and fragmentation are widely recognized as among the most important threats to global biodiversity. New analytical approaches are providing improved ability to predict the effects of landscape change on population connectivity at vast spatial extents. This paper presents an analysis of population connectivity for three species of conservation concern [swift fox (Vulpes velox); lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus); massasuaga (Sistrurus catenatus)] across the American Great Plains region. We used factorial least-cost path and resistant kernel analyses to predict effects of landscape conditions on corridor network connectivity. Our predictions of population connectivity provide testable hypotheses about the [...]

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This project was designed to predict and map core habitat and fracture zones, and identify potential movement corridors for three species of conservation concern in the American Great Plains. Swift fox (Vulpes velox) lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) and massasuaga (Sistrurus catenatus) are identified as species of conservation concern across the Great Plain Region. Reliable knowledge about population distribution and connectivity is essential to guide effective conservation actions for these species. We used resistant kernel (Compton et al. 2007; Cushman et al. 2010a) and least-cost path approaches (Cushman et al. 2009, 2010b) to evaluate habitat area, fragmentation, and corridor connectivity for these three species across the full extent of the Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative. We had three specific objectives: (1) estimate the extent of connected habitat and map dispersal corridors among core habitat patches; (2) identify key geographical locations that are most important to maintaining population connectivity and facilitating movement; (3) evaluate how well protecting areas important for population connectivity for one species could simultaneously protect population connectivity for the others. The results of connectivity analyses such as those presented here are highly dependent on accurate distribution data, accurate estimates of dispersal distance, and accurate mapping of relative landscape resistance to movement. Given that there is uncertainty in these parameters, results should be interpreted with care and treated as hypotheses warranting further evaluation. However, the connectivity modeling approaches described here enable researchers to make efficient use of existing information to assess connectivity and identify or prioritize areas for management and protection.

Project Extension

productDescriptionPublication, Report and Spatially explicit model outputs

Budget Extension

recipientU.S. Forest Service
sourceU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


Spatial Services

ScienceBase WMS


  • Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative
  • LC MAP - Landscape Conservation Management and Analysis Portal

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Additional Information


Type Scheme Key
File Identifier file identifier 50dcb630e4b0d55926e3f2de

Citation Extension

citationTypeWeb site
valueDivision of Biological Sciences (DBS) The University of Montana
typePublisher Location
valueMissoula, MT

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