A network model framework for prioritizing wetland conservation in the Great Plains

Landscape Ecology
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Abstract

Context

Playa wetlands are the primary habitat for numerous wetland-dependent species in the Southern Great Plains of North America. Plant and wildlife populations that inhabit these wetlands are reciprocally linked through the dispersal of individuals, propagules and ultimately genes among local populations.

Objective

To develop and implement a framework using network models for conceptualizing, representing and analyzing potential biological flows among 48,981 spatially discrete playa wetlands in the Southern Great Plains.

Methods

We examined changes in connectivity patterns and assessed the relative importance of wetlands to maintaining these patterns by targeting wetlands for removal based on network centrality metrics weighted by estimates of habitat quality and probability of inundation.

Results

We identified several distinct, broad-scale sub networks and phase transitions among playa wetlands in the Southern Plains. In particular, for organisms that can disperse >2 km a dense and expansive wetland sub network emerges in the Southern High Plains. This network was characterized by localized, densely connected wetland clusters at link distances (h) >2 km but <5 km and was most sensitive to changes in wetland availability (p) and configuration when h = 4 km, and p = 0.2–0.4. It transitioned to a single, large connected wetland system at broader spatial scales even when the proportion of inundated wetland was relatively low (p = 0.2).

Conclusions

Our findings suggest that redundancy in the potential for broad and fine-scale movements insulates this system from damage and facilitates system-wide connectivity among populations with different dispersal capacities.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A network model framework for prioritizing wetland conservation in the Great Plains
Series title Landscape Ecology
DOI 10.1007/s10980-016-0436-0
Volume 32
Issue 1
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Atlanta
Description 16 p.
First page 115
Last page 130
Country United States
State New Mexico, Texas