Habitat suitability is a poor proxy for landscape connectivity during dispersal and mating movements

Annika T.H. Keeley, Paul Beier, Brian W. Keeley, Matthew E. Fagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Resistance values based on habitat suitability are frequently the basis for modeling landscape connectivity and designing wildlife corridors to facilitate dispersal movements. However, animals may use the landscape differently during dispersal movements than in the home range. We hypothesized that (1) habitat features that are avoided within an animal's home range offer little resistance to animals during natal or breeding dispersal and more specifically that (2) resistance to dispersal is a negative exponential function of habitat suitability within the home range. To test these hypotheses, we used field movement data of kinkajous (Potos flavus), a neotropical, arboreal mammal, to parameterize alternative resistance surfaces based on home range resource use, home range movement data, parent-offspring locations, and breeding pair locations. We used correlation analysis to compare performance of these surfaces. Our results suggest that kinkajous perceive the fragmented landscape as more connected during dispersal than while in the home range. Although kinkajous are tightly linked to forest during movements in the home range, farms and pastures did not pose higher resistance to dispersal movements than forests. Similar tolerance for low-quality habitat has now been observed in dispersal movements of several wildlife species. A negative exponential relationship between habitat suitability and resistance characterizes landscape connectivity perception of mobile species during dispersal movements. If mobile animals can readily traverse habitat of lower quality, large fractions of the landscape may offer low resistance, allowing greater flexibility in where a corridor is located.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-102
Number of pages13
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • Dispersal
  • Habitat suitability
  • Landscape connectivity
  • Landscape resistance
  • Mating movements
  • Wildlife corridors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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