The contribution of reserves and anthropogenic habitat for functional connectivity and resilience of ephemeral wetland networks

Monday, 14 December 2015: 11:50
3016 (Moscone West)
Craig R Allen1, Daniel Uden1, David Angeler2 and Michelle Hellman1, (1)Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, School of Natural Resources, Lincoln, NE, United States, (2)Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden
Functional connectivity of reserves and other suitable habitat patches is crucial for persistence of spatially structured populations, and therefore for resilience. To maintain or increase connectivity at spatial scales larger than individual patches, conservation actions may focus on creating and maintaining reserves or influencing management actions taken on non-reserves. We assess functional connectivity of isolated wetlands within an intensively managed agricultural matrix. Using a graph-theoretic approach, we assessed the functional connectivity and spatial distribution of wetlands in the Rainwater Basins, Nebraska, U.S.A. at four assumed anuran dispersal distances. We compare the contemporary wetlands landscape to the historical landscape and putative future landscapes and evaluate the importance of individual and aggregated reserve and non-reserve wetlands for maintaining connectivity. Connectivity was greatest in the historical landscape, where wetlands were also the most densely distributed. The construction of irrigation reuse pits for water storage has substantially increased connectivity in the current landscape, but because their distribution is more uniform than historical wetlands, larger and longer-dispersing species may be favored over smaller, shorter-dispersing species. Because of their relatively low number, wetland reserves did not affect connectivity as greatly as non-reserve wetlands or irrigation reuse pits; however, they provide the highest-quality anuran habitat. Future levels of connectivity in the region will be directly impacted by the planned removal of irrigation reuse pits, and on non-reserve wetlands. Multi-scale spatial and temporal assessments of the effects of landuse change and conservation actions on landscape connectivity may be used to direct and prioritize conservation actions, and should also be useful for reserve network and landscape resilience assessments.