Integrating regional-scale connectivity in habitat restoration: An application for amphibian conservation in eastern France

Abstract : Habitat restoration is one way of reducing landscape fragmentation, which is seen as a threat to biodiversity. It consists in renovating disused or degraded habitat patches or in creating new habitat patches in suitable areas. Currently, most restoration measures draw on the local knowledge of experts for selecting the best locations. For amphibian metapopulations like the European tree frog (Hyla arborea), the search for such locations must include regional-scale connectivity in order to maintain their viability. We set up a systematic and cumulative protocol for adding new habitat patches to a pond network. Graph modelling is used to include regional-scale connectivity as a criterion to be maximized. Successive locations are tested systematically and connectivity is compared before and after the virtual addition of each new pond. The location that increases connectivity most is identified. The results show that the priority areas identified by the model are similar to those suggested by local experts from a wildlife conservation association. The two approaches are complementary because they are applied on two different scales. The patch addition method can identify strategic areas for improving global connectivity by taking into account the regional scale. Experts' knowledge can target the precise location within the identified area for creating new habitats based on local factors of the surrounding context. In addition, our method can be also used to prioritize locations already decided on by landscape managers. Consequently, this protocol appears to be a useful tool for guiding habitat restoration in the field.
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Céline Clauzel, Cyrielle Bannwarth, Jean-Christophe Foltête. Integrating regional-scale connectivity in habitat restoration: An application for amphibian conservation in eastern France. Journal for Nature Conservation, Elsevier, 2015, 23, pp.98-107. ⟨10.1016/j.jnc.2014.07.001⟩. ⟨hal-01053535⟩

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