Modeling occupancy dynamics of a rare species, Franklin's ground squirrel, with limited data: Are simple connectivity metrics adequate?

Jennifer M. Duggan, Robert L. Schooley, Edward J. Heske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Conservation of populations in fragmented habitats is often based on spatially realistic metapopulation theory, which predicts negative relationships between patch extinction and area and patch colonization and isolation. Cost-distance metrics have been developed to integrate habitat quality into measures of connectivity, and thus may improve predictive power of the area-isolation paradigm. Few studies use empirical data to compare predictive performance of complex cost-distance metrics to simple metrics relying on Euclidean distances. We used 3 years of presence-absence data to examine relative influence of habitat quality, habitat area, and connectivity on occupancy and extinction rates for Poliocitellus franklinii (Franklin's ground squirrel), a rare grassland species of conservation concern. We calculated connectivity using nearest-neighbor (NN) and incidence function model (IFM) metrics based on Euclidean and cost-distances. Habitat quality, area, and connectivity were all positive predictors for occupancy, but only isolation was a positive predictor of extinction. P. franklinii does not appear to be a tallgrass prairie obligate, but the species distribution is limited by isolation of suitable grassland habitat. A simple NN metric measuring Euclidean distance between a target area and nearest occupied source outperformed IFM (Euclidean and cost-distance) in predicting occupancy and extinction for P. franklinii. Although NN metrics are criticized for considering only the contribution of the source nearest to a target, this simplicity may be acceptable when measuring connectivity for rare species with few occupied habitat patches within dispersal distance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1477-1490
Number of pages14
JournalLandscape Ecology
Volume26
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2011

Keywords

  • Cost-distance modeling
  • Incidence function model
  • Metapopulation
  • Midwestern USA
  • Nearest neighbor
  • Poliocitellus franklinii
  • Prairie
  • Spermophilus franklinii

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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