Neutral landscape models, derived from percolation theory in the field of landscape ecology, are grid‐based maps in which complex habitat distributions are generated by random or fractal algorithms. This grid‐based representation of landscape structure is compatible with the raster‐based format of geographical information systems (GIS), which facilitates comparisons between theoretical and real landscapes. Neutral landscape models permit the identification of critical thresholds in connectivity, which can be used to predict when landscapes will become fragmented. The coupling of neutral landscape models with generalized population models, such as metapopulation theory, provides a null model for generating predictions about population dynamics in fragmented landscapes. Neutral landscape models can contribute to the following applications in conservation: (1) incorporation of complex spatial patterns in (meta)population models; (2) identification of species’ perceptions of landscape structure; (3) determination of landscape connectivity; (4) evaluation of the consequences of habitat fragmentation for population subdivision; (5) identification of the domain of metapopulation dynamics; (6) prediction of the occurrence of extinction thresholds; ( 7) determination of the genetic consequences of habitat fragmentation; and (8) reserve design and ecosystem management. This generalized, spatially explicit framework bridges the gap between spatially implicit, patch‐based models and spatially realistic GIS applications which are usually parameterized for a single species in a specific landscape. Development of a generalized, spatially explicit framework is essential in conservation biology because we will not be able to develop individual models for every species of management concern.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Oct 16, 1997
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