Towards a unified framework for connectivity that disentangles movement and mortality in space and time

Robert J. Fletcher, Jorge A. Sefair, Chao Wang, Caroline L. Poli, Thomas A.H. Smith, Emilio M. Bruna, Robert D. Holt, Michael Barfield, Andrew J. Marx, Miguel A. Acevedo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Predicting connectivity, or how landscapes alter movement, is essential for understanding the scope for species persistence with environmental change. Although it is well known that movement is risky, connectivity modelling often conflates behavioural responses to the matrix through which animals disperse with mortality risk. We derive new connectivity models using random walk theory, based on the concept of spatial absorbing Markov chains. These models decompose the role of matrix on movement behaviour and mortality risk, can incorporate species distribution to predict the amount of flow, and provide both short- and long-term analytical solutions for multiple connectivity metrics. We validate the framework using data on movement of an insect herbivore in 15 experimental landscapes. Our results demonstrate that disentangling the roles of movement behaviour and mortality risk is fundamental to accurately interpreting landscape connectivity, and that spatial absorbing Markov chains provide a generalisable and powerful framework with which to do so.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1680-1689
Number of pages10
JournalEcology letters
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • Circuit theory
  • Markov chain
  • dispersal
  • fragmentation
  • habitat loss
  • least cost
  • matrix effects
  • networks
  • random walk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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