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Three steps to strengthen confidence in connectivity models
  • Eamon Riordan-Short,
  • Jason Pither,
  • Richard Pither
Eamon Riordan-Short
The University of British Columbia Okanagan
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Jason Pither
The University of British Columbia Okanagan
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Richard Pither
Environment and Climate Change Canada National Wildlife Research Centre

Corresponding Author:richard.pither@ec.gc.ca

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Abstract

Maintaining and restoring ecological connectivity is considered a global imperative to help reverse the decline of biodiversity. To be successful, practitioners need to be guided by connectivity modeling research that is rigorous and reliable for the task at hand. However, the methods and workflows within this rapidly growing field are diverse and few have been rigorously scrutinized. We propose three procedural steps that should be consistently undertaken and reported on in connectivity modeling studies in order to improve rigour and utility: (1) describe the type of connectivity being modeled, (2) assess the uncertainty and sensitivity of model parameters, and (3) validate the model outputs, ideally with independent data. We reviewed the literature to determine the extent to which studies included these three steps. We focused on studies that generated novel landscape connectivity outputs using circuit theory. Among 181 studies meeting our search criteria, 39% communicated the type of connectivity being modeled and 18% conducted some form of sensitivity or uncertainty analysis (or both). Only 19% of studies attempted to validate their connectivity model outputs and only 7% used fully independent data. Our findings highlight a clear need and opportunity to improve the rigour, reliability, and utility of connectivity modeling research. At a minimum, researchers should be transparent about which, if any, of these three steps were undertaken. This will help practitioners make more informed decisions and ensure limited resources for connectivity conservation and restoration are allocated appropriately.
20 Jan 2023Submitted to Ecography
20 Jan 2023Assigned to Editor
20 Jan 2023Submission Checks Completed
20 Jan 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
23 Jan 2023Reviewer(s) Assigned