Landscape connectivity: A conservation application of graph theory
We use focal-species analysis to apply a graph-theoretic approach to landscape connectivity in the Coastal Plain of North Carolina. In doing so we demonstrate the utility of a mathematical graph as an ecological construct with respect to habitat connectivity. Graph theory is a well established mainstay of information technology and is concerned with highly efficient network flow. It employs fast algorithms and compact data structures that are easily adapted to landscape-level focal species analysis. American mink (Mustela vison) and prothonotary warblers (Protonotaria citrea) share the same habitat but have different dispersal capabilities, and therefore provide interesting comparisons on connections in the landscape. We built graphs using GIS coverages to define habitat patches and determined the functional distance between the patches with least-cost path modeling. Using graph operations concerned with edge and node removal we found that the landscape is fundamentally connected for mink and fundamentally unconnected for prothonotary warblers. The advantage of a graph-theoretic approach over other modeling techniques is that it is a heuristic framework which can be applied with very little data and improved from the initial results. We demonstrate the use of graph theory in a metapopulation context, and suggest that graph theory as applied to conservation biology can provide leverage on applications concerned with landscape connectivity. © 2000 Academic Press.
Bunn, AG; Urban, DL; Keitt, TH
Volume / Issue
Start / End Page
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)