ABSTRACT: This work aims to guide conservation prioritization by identifying areas of conservation critical to achieving an interconnected Arizonan landscape. A landscape connectivity assessment conducted with this goal in mind resulted in the identification of Important Connectivity Zones (ICZs) throughout the state. The assessment used graph theoretic and shortest-path betweenness centrality spatial modeling methods to evaluate structural connectivity with landscape integrity data as a permeability surrogate. The analysis yielded a landscape lattice comprised of 382,740 hexagonal nodes, each 100 hect-ares in size. Selection of nodes that exhibited the greatest cumulative facilitation of ecological flows throughout the entire landscape lattice resulted in the delineation of ICZs. The ICZ network constitutes a series of ‘wildways’ comprised of highly natural zones contributing the most to the connectivity of the entire landscape. The ICZs identified here may serve as a potential blueprint for guiding statewide connectivity efforts as well as informing future conservation action, land management, and planning efforts. Additionally, as ICZs include a metric quantifying their relative importance, this analysis provides a framework upon which local and fine-scale linkage designs can be evaluated within the context of the entire landscape. Such an evaluation may prove useful in identifying locations where fine-scale linkage designs are needed, ranking their relative contribution to connectivity of the whole, and prioritizing their implementation throughout the state.
Landscape Journal: design, planning, and management of the land – University of Wisconsin Press
Published: Oct 18, 2016
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