The persistence of species in reserves depends in large part on the persistence of functional ecological interactions. Despite their importance, however, ecological interactions have not yet been explicitly incorporated into conservation prioritization methods. We develop here a general method for incorporating consumer–resource interactions into spatial reserve design. This method protects spatial consumer–resource interactions by protecting areas that maintain the connectivity between the distribution of consumers and resources. We illustrate our method with a conservation planning case study of a mammalian predator, American marten ( Martes americana ), and its two primary prey species, Red-backed vole ( Clethrionomys rutilus ) and Deer mouse ( Peromyscus maniculatus ). The conservation goal was to identify a reserve for marten that comprised 12% of a forest management unit in the boreal forest in Québec, Canada. We compared reserves developed using analysis variants that utilized different levels of information about predator and prey habitat distributions, species-specific connectivity requirements, and interaction connectivity requirements. The inclusion of consumer–resource interactions in reserve-selection resulted in spatially aggregated reserves that maintained local habitat quality for the species. This spatial aggregation was not induced by applying a qualitative penalty for the boundary length of the reserve, but rather was a direct consequence of modelling the spatial needs of the interacting consumer and resources. Our method for maintaining connectivity between consumers and their resources within reserves can be applied even under the most extreme cases of either complete spatial overlap or complete spatial segregation of consumer–resource distributions. The method has been made available via public software.
Ecological Modelling – Elsevier
Published: Mar 10, 2009
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