Dynamic surface water distributions influence wetland connectivity within a highly modified interior landscape

Blake A. Barbaree, Matthew E. Reiter, Catherine M. Hickey, Nathan K. Elliott, Danica Schaffer-Smith, Mark D. Reynolds, Gary W. Page

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Context: Animal movements are inherently linked to landscape structure. Understanding this relationship for highly-mobile species requires documenting their responses to spatiotemporal variability of resources. To that end, characterizing movement behaviors and resource distributions using the principles of habitat connectivity facilitates coordinated landscape planning efforts within highly modified landscapes. Objectives and methods: We tracked locations and movements for 156 dunlin (Calidris alpina) and 109 long-billed dowitchers (Limnodromus scolopaceus) overwintering in two regions with distinct water distributions in California’s Central Valley. We then compared residency rates, functional connectivity to other regions, and associations between movement distances and average habitat availability and structural connectivity of habitat at multiple temporal and spatial scales. Results: A widespread yet highly variable regional water distribution was associated with lower residency rates and substantially higher functional connectivity to nearby regions when compared to a stable regional water distribution characterized by a large, contiguous wetland complex. Longer movements were associated with decreasing average availability and spatial aggregation of surface water. Movement models suggested shorebirds primarily responded to habitat availability at smaller scales (< 10 km) and structural connectivity at larger scales (≥ 10 km). Conclusions: Differences in movement behaviors suggested that wintering shorebirds will avoid long distance movements and remain resident within a wetland region when possible. Conservation and management efforts should reliably flood individual wetlands and agricultural lands from November to April and prioritize locations that maximize structural wetland connectivity and limit spatiotemporal variability of surface water throughout the Central Valley.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)829-844
Number of pages16
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Calidris alpina
  • Landsat
  • Landscape structure
  • Limnodromus scolopaceus
  • Movement ecology
  • Radio telemetry
  • Water distribution
  • Wetland connectivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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