WHAF: Connectivity

Science of Watershed Health


Connectivity: Landscape

“Although riverine systems differ from terrestrial systems by virtue of the strong physical force of hydrology and the inherent connectivity provided by water flow, all of these themes (longitudinal, lateral, vertical and temporal connectivity) apply equally to aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and to the linkages between the two” (Wiens).  

Landscape connectivity is 'the degree to which the landscape facilitates or impedes movement among resource patches' (Taylor et al, 1993). Biological components - both plant and animal – must have access to all the habitats necessary for all stages of their life cycle. This includes both physical and temporal access to habitats. For example, the need for seasonal timing is acute for many wildlife species to accommodate breeding, reproduction, and migration. For plant species it is equally important for dispersal, growth and competition.

Landscape connectivity has two components:

Habitat does not need to be structurally connected in order to be functionally connected. Some organisms have the ability to bridge the gaps between habitat patches and can link resources by crossing over uninhabitable or partially inhabitable locations (Taylor, 2006). For example, a neotropical migrant bird will perceive a landscape as connected across a greater range than would a salamander restricted to moist forest floors (With). “These movements… of individuals, materials, nutrients, energy or disturbances… are affected by how (habitat) patches are arrayed in the mosaic…. Although landscape connectivity is often thought of in terms of corridors - roughly linear strips of habitat connecting otherwise isolated habitat patches – connectivity is in fact a complex product of:


As people use the land, the natural landscape is divided into ever-smaller pieces by elements like railways, utility lines, roads, houses, and parking lots. The remaining natural areas, or fragments, are reduced in size and degraded in quality, resulting in a decline in plant and animal populations, and the disappearance of some sensitive animal species and plant communities.

How does fragmentation impact the environment?