Reserve design to optimize functional connectivity and animal density

Amrita Gupta, Bistra Dilkina*, Dana J. Morin, Angela K. Fuller, J. Andrew Royle, Christopher Sutherland, Carla P. Gomes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Ecological distance-based spatial capture–recapture models (SCR) are a promising approach for simultaneously estimating animal density and connectivity, both of which affect spatial population processes and ultimately species persistence. We explored how SCR models can be integrated into reserve-design frameworks that explicitly acknowledge both the spatial distribution of individuals and their space use resulting from landscape structure. We formulated the design of wildlife reserves as a budget-constrained optimization problem and conducted a simulation to explore 3 different SCR-informed optimization objectives that prioritized different conservation goals by maximizing the number of protected individuals, reserve connectivity, and density-weighted connectivity. We also studied the effect on our 3 objectives of enforcing that the space-use requirements of individuals be met by the reserve for individuals to be considered conserved (referred to as home-range constraints). Maximizing local population density resulted in fragmented reserves that would likely not aid long-term population persistence, and maximizing the connectivity objective yielded reserves that protected the fewest individuals. However, maximizing density-weighted connectivity or preemptively imposing home-range constraints on reserve design yielded reserves of largely spatially compact sets of parcels covering high-density areas in the landscape with high functional connectivity between them. Our results quantify the extent to which reserve design is constrained by individual home-range requirements and highlight that accounting for individual space use in the objective and constraints can help in the design of reserves that balance abundance and connectivity in a biologically relevant manner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1023-1034
Number of pages12
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • captura-recaptura espacial
  • conectividad funcional, conservación de la conectividad
  • connectivity conservation
  • conservation planning
  • diseño de reservas
  • functional connectivity
  • integer linear programing
  • mathematical optimization
  • optimización matemática
  • planeación de la conservación
  • programación entera lineal
  • reserve design
  • spatial capture–recapture


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