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SCALETOOL IntroductionDriversBiodiversityPolicies and managementConnectivity and protected areas
Differences between structural and functional connectivity How to assess connectivity - methods and tools From movement to dispersal to connectivity Connectivity and Natura 2000 Key messages for the connectivity of protected areas
 

Differences between structural and functional connectivity

Structural connectivity indicates the part of the landscape that is actually connected through e.g. corridors. In contrast, functional connectivity includes species specific aspects and their interaction with landscape structures. Thus, functional connectivity is actual connectivity from a species’ perspective.
The movement of individuals across landscapes can affect many ecological processes across scales, from individual survival through the viability of populations and metapopulations, to community dynamics, the resilience of ecosystems, and wider biodiversity (Jeltsch et al. 2013). Species distributions and their shifts (e.g. in response to climate change) depend on species' movement capacities and yet are mediated by landscape structure. The loss of connectivity, due mainly to the unprecedented expansion of anthropogenic infrastructure, is an increasingly central driver of the global biodiversity crisis. Yet to enable policy and management to maintain or enhance connectivity, consensus is needed on what connectivity means and how to measure it in an appropriate way.

One way to look at a landscape is by examining 'structural' connectivity, namely, looking at landscape structures regardless of any biological or behavioural attributes of organisms interacting with them (Tischendorf & Fahrig 2000; Kindlmann & Burel 2008). Alternatively, Taylor et al. (1993) introduced the term 'landscape connectivity' to define "the degree to which the landscape facilitates or impedes movement between resource patches". A later derivation of this term is the concept of 'functional connectivity', which focuses on the landscape from the perspective of the species, and thus, the outcome of interactions between individuals and landscape structures in accordance to their needs, perception, and the response norms of species or individuals (Figure 1). This term, which strongly adheres to the Movement Ecology paradigm in focusing on individuals and their response to their environment (Nathan et al. 2008), has become very dominant in landscape ecology.


Figure 1: To exemplify the concept of 'functional' connectivity, imagine two disconnected habitat patches (a), or alternatively two patches that are structurally connected by a corridor (b). A species that can move beyond the boundaries of patches and into the non-suitable environment might perceive the disconnected neighbouring patches as functionally connected (as marked by the dashed, pale green area (c). Yet a core-habitat species, which avoids habitat edges, may not move into the corridor, and hence structurally connected patches may remain functionally disconnected (d)



References

Jeltsch, F., D. Bonte, G. Pe'er, B. Reineking, P. Leimgruber, N. Balkenhohl, B. Schröder, C. Buchmann, T. Mueller, N. Blaum, D. Zurell, K. Böhning-Gaese, T. Wiegand, J. Eccard, H. Hofer, J. Reeg, U. Eggers, and S. Bauer. 2013. Integrating movement ecology with biodiversity research - exploring new avenues to address spatiotemporal biodiversity dynamics. Movement Ecology 1:6.

Kindlmann, P., and F. Burel. 2008. Connectivity measures: a review. Landscape Ecology 23:879-890.

Nathan, R., W. M. Getz, E. Revilla, M. Holyoak, R. Kadmon, D. Saltz, and P. E. Smouse. 2008. Movement Ecology Special Feature: A movement ecology paradigm for unifying organismal movement research. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 105:19052-19059.

Taylor, P. D., L. Fahrig, K. Henein, and G. Merriam. 1993. Connectivity is a vital element of landscape structure. Oikos 68:571-573.

Tischendorf, L., and L. Fahrig. 2000. On the usage and measurement of landscape connectivity. Oikos 90:7-19.
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