Forest habitat functional connectivity in a natural park of central Sierra Morena (south of Spain)

Authors and Affiliations: 

J. Montalvo (1,2), R. Martínez (1,2), D. Íñigo (2), C.Martínez-Núñez(2)

(1) Departamento de Ecología y Biología animal, Universidad de Vigo, Spain
(2) Fundación Matrix, Investigación y Desarrollo Sostenible, Spain

Corresponding author: 
J. Montalvo

Quantifying functional connectivity (FC; Pascual-Hortal & Saura 2006, Saura & Pascual-Hortal 2007; Saura & Rubio 2010, Schooley & Branch 2011) in protected areas from high spatial resolution mapping is necessary for landscape ecological knowledge, conservation and adaptive management (e.g. Martín-Queller & Saura 2013, Pirnat & Hladwik 2016). Mediterranean sclerophyllous vegetation converted into ‘dehesas’, i.e. savanna-like open forests, is the cultural landscape that dominate Sierra de Hornachuelos Natural Park (PNSH), located at central Sierra Morena (Córdoba, south of Spain). Cork oaks and holm oaks are the dominant trees in a matrix of ‘dehesas’ with neighboring sclerophyllous woodlands and shrublands interspersed with trees.

Using the Integral Connectivity Index, FC of the forest habitat was evaluated, considering the spatial configuration of landscape units and the intrinsic quality of 27 habitat types, for 20 dispersal distances of tree and mesocarnivorous species (Palomares & Delibes 1991, Pons & Pausas 2007, Rafart 2005). The obtained results reveal a low FC of the PNSH, a nonlinear relationship of increase of the FC with the dispersal distance, and the effect of habitat area availability and habitat quality on connectivity. Besides, the influence of woodlands and shrublands with trees on landscape connectivity was detected. Without spatial heterogeneity of habitat quality, the larger the available habitat area, the higher the FC. The results report the variable contribution of wooded landscape units and spatial arrangement of patches to landscape connectivity, and allow prioritization of key areas for conservation within this protected area.


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