Monitoring ecological consequences of efforts to restore landscape-scale connectivity

David Watson, Veronica A J Doerr, Sam C. Banks, Don A. Driscoll, Rodney van der Ree, Erik D. Doerr, Paul Sunnucks

Research output: Contribution to journalComment / DebateResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Managing and restoring connectivity that enables wildlife movement through landscapes is the primary approach to reduce harmful effects of habitat loss and fragmentation. Improved connectivity is also increasingly invoked as a strategy to mitigate negative impacts of climate change by enabling species to track preferred environments and maintain evolutionary processes. Although initiatives to improve connectivity using restoration are becoming commonplace, we do not know how successful these actions are, nor which mechanisms underlie biotic responses. Most ecological monitoring focuses on site condition or quality rather than those landscape-scale processes that connectivity is intended to facilitate. To assess biodiversity responses to connectivity initiatives, we argue that new monitoring approaches are needed that distinguish the roles of connectivity restoration from those of habitat augmentation or improvement. To address this critical gap, we developed a conceptual model of the hypothesised roles of connectivity in complex landscapes and a linked framework to guide design of connectivity monitoring approaches in an adaptive management context. We demonstrate that integrated monitoring approaches using complementary methods are essential to reveal whether long-term landscape-scale goals are being achieved, and to determine whether connectivity management and restoration are the mechanisms responsible. We summarize a real-world example of applying our approach to assist government develop a monitoring plan for a large-scale connectivity conservation initiative in the Australian Capital Territory. As well as highlighting the utility of the framework to help managers make informed choices about monitoring, this example illustrates the difficulties of convincing funding bodies to include monitoring in project budgets and the questions more likely to be answered with limited funds. Synthesis and applications. Implementing an effective strategy to monitor connectivity conservation initiatives necessarily involves more work but we argue it is an essential investment rather than an additional cost. By optimizing allocation of limited monitoring resources, we can more effectively implement management that improves functional connectivity, and understand how changing connectivity affects population persistence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-209
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
Volume206
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017

Keywords

  • Adaptive management
  • Conservation genetics
  • Decision support tool
  • Dispersal
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Restoration
  • Rewilding

Cite this

Watson, D., Doerr, V. A. J., Banks, S. C., Driscoll, D. A., van der Ree, R., Doerr, E. D., & Sunnucks, P. (2017). Monitoring ecological consequences of efforts to restore landscape-scale connectivity. Biological Conservation, 206, 201-209. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.12.032
Watson, David ; Doerr, Veronica A J ; Banks, Sam C. ; Driscoll, Don A. ; van der Ree, Rodney ; Doerr, Erik D. ; Sunnucks, Paul. / Monitoring ecological consequences of efforts to restore landscape-scale connectivity. In: Biological Conservation. 2017 ; Vol. 206. pp. 201-209.
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Monitoring ecological consequences of efforts to restore landscape-scale connectivity. / Watson, David; Doerr, Veronica A J; Banks, Sam C.; Driscoll, Don A.; van der Ree, Rodney; Doerr, Erik D.; Sunnucks, Paul.

In: Biological Conservation, Vol. 206, 01.02.2017, p. 201-209.

Research output: Contribution to journalComment / DebateResearchpeer-review

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Watson D, Doerr VAJ, Banks SC, Driscoll DA, van der Ree R, Doerr ED et al. Monitoring ecological consequences of efforts to restore landscape-scale connectivity. Biological Conservation. 2017 Feb 1;206:201-209. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.12.032