Dynamic connectivity of temporary wetlands in the southern Great Plains

Luis Ruiz, Niki Parikh, Lucas J. Heintzman, Steven D. Collins, Scott M. Starr, Christopher K. Wright, Geoffrey M. Henebry, Natasja van Gestel, Nancy E. McIntyre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations

Abstract

We quantified fluctuations in the status of individual patches (wetlands) in supporting connectivity within a network of playas, temporary wetlands of the southern Great Plains of North America that are loci for regional biodiversity. We used remote sensing imagery to delineate the location of surface waters in >8,000 playa basins in a ~31,900 km2 portion of Texas and quantified connectivity in this region from 2007 to 2011. We ranked playas as stepping-stones, cutpoints, and hubs at different levels of environmental conditions (regionally wet, dry, and average periods of precipitation) for dispersal distances ranging from 0.5 to 34 km, representing a range of species' vagilities, to provide baseline dynamics within an area likely to experience disrupted connectivity due to anthropogenic activities. An individual playa's status as a stepping-stone, cutpoint, or hub was highly variable over time (only a single playa was a top 20 stepping-stone, cutpoint, or hub in >50 % of all of the dates examined). Coalescence of the inundated playa network usually occurred at ≥10 km dispersal distance and depended on wetland density, indicating that critical thresholds in connectivity arose from synergistic effects of dispersal ability (spatial scale) and wet playa occurrence (a function of precipitation). Organisms with dispersal capabilities limited to <10 km routinely experienced effective isolation during our study. Connectivity is thus a dynamic emergent landscape property, so management to maintain connectivity for wildlife within ephemeral habitats like inundated playas will need to move beyond a patch-based focus to a network focus by including connectivity as a dynamic landscape property.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-516
Number of pages10
JournalLandscape Ecology
Volume29
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2014

Keywords

  • Betweenness centrality
  • Cutpoint
  • Graph theory
  • Habitat network
  • Hub
  • Playa
  • Stepping-stone

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