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Applying network theory to prioritize multispecies habitat networks that are robust to climate and land-use change.

  • Albert, Cécile H1, 2
  • Rayfield, Bronwyn2, 3, 4
  • Dumitru, Maria2
  • Gonzalez, Andrew2, 5
  • 1 Aix Marseille Univ, Univ Avignon, CNRS, IRD, IMBE, Case 421 Av Escadrille Normandie Niémen 13 397 Marseille cedex 20, France. , (France)
  • 2 Department of Biology, McGill University, Stewart Biology Building 1205 Docteur Penfield, Montreal, QC, H3A 1B1, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 3 Département des sciences naturelles, Université du Québec en Outaouais, Institut des sciences de la forêt tempérée, 58 Rue Principale, Ripon, QC, J0V 1V0, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 4 Apex Resource Management Solutions Ltd., 937 Kingsmere Ave, Ottawa, ON K2A, 3K2, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 5 Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science, Stewart Biology Building 1205 Docteur Penfield, Montreal, QC, H3A 1B1, Canada. , (Canada)
Published Article
Conservation Biology
Wiley (Blackwell Publishing)
Publication Date
Dec 01, 2017
DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12943
PMID: 28383758


Designing connected landscapes is among the most widespread strategies for achieving biodiversity conservation targets. The challenge lies in simultaneously satisfying the connectivity needs of multiple species at multiple spatial scales under uncertain climate and land-use change. To evaluate the contribution of remnant habitat fragments to the connectivity of regional habitat networks, we developed a method to integrate uncertainty in climate and land-use change projections with the latest developments in network-connectivity research and spatial, multipurpose conservation prioritization. We used land-use change simulations to explore robustness of species' habitat networks to alternative development scenarios. We applied our method to 14 vertebrate focal species of periurban Montreal, Canada. Accounting for connectivity in spatial prioritization strongly modified conservation priorities and the modified priorities were robust to uncertain climate change. Setting conservation priorities based on habitat quality and connectivity maintained a large proportion of the region's connectivity, despite anticipated habitat loss due to climate and land-use change. The application of connectivity criteria alongside habitat-quality criteria for protected-area design was efficient with respect to the amount of area that needs protection and did not necessarily amplify trade-offs among conservation criteria. Our approach and results are being applied in and around Montreal and are well suited to the design of ecological networks and green infrastructure for the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services in other regions, in particular regions around large cities, where connectivity is critically low.

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