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Proposal of new Natura 2000 network boundaries in Spain based on the value of importance for biodiversity and connectivity analysis for its improvement

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The aim of the Natura 2000 Network is to ensure the conservation of habitats and species in their natural areas of distribution. Connectivity is an essential part of this conservation. For this purpose, a value map of importance for biodiversity (V.I.B) was generated proposing 4 levels of protection and overlapped with the Natura 2000 network. New boundaries for the zoning are proposed adding 1.600.000 ha. Two connectivity indices (MSPA and PC) are calculated in the 4 different scenarios. With these indices it is possible to know the number of existing nuclei and connectors in each of the scenarios. New boundaries cover more areas of interest for biodiversity as well as zones of great importance in relation to connectivity. We propose a uniform method that can be extrapolated to any European territory.
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Ecological Indicators 129 (2021) 108024
Available online 26 July 2021
1470-160X/© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Proposal of new Natura 2000 network boundaries in Spain based on the
value of importance for biodiversity and connectivity analysis for
its improvement
Víctor Rinc´
on
a
, Javier Vel´
azquez
b
,
c
,
*
, Javier Guti´
errez
b
, Ana Hernando
b
,
c
,
Alexander Khoroshev
d
, Inmaculada G´
omez
b
, Fernando Herr´
aez
b
, Beatriz S´
anchez
b
,
Juan Pablo Luque
b
, Antonio García-abril
c
, Tom´
as Santamaría
b
, Daniel S´
anchez-Mata
a
a
Departamento de Farmacología, Farmacognosia y Bot´
anica, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad, Complutense de Madrid, Plaza de Ram´
on y Cajal, s/n, 28040 Madrid,
Spain
b
Universidad Cat´
olica de ´
Avila, Calle de los Canteros s/n, 05005 ´
Avila, Spain
c
Silvanet Research Group, Universidad Polit´
ecnica de Madrid, Ciudad Universitaria s/n, 28040 Madrid, Spain
d
Faculty of Geography, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow 119991, Russia
ARTICLE INFO
Keywords:
Connectivity
MSPA
PC Index
Natura 2000
Conservation
ABSTRACT
The aim of the Natura 2000 Network is to ensure the conservation of habitats and species in their natural areas of
distribution. Connectivity is an essential part of this conservation. For this purpose, a value map of importance
for biodiversity (V.I.B) was generated proposing 4 levels of protection and overlapped with the Natura 2000
network. New boundaries for the zoning are proposed adding 1.600.000 ha. Two connectivity indices (MSPA and
PC) are calculated in the 4 different scenarios. With these indices it is possible to know the number of existing
nuclei and connectors in each of the scenarios. New boundaries cover more areas of interest for biodiversity as
well as zones of great importance in relation to connectivity. We propose a uniform method that can be
extrapolated to any European territory.
1. Introduction
Biological diversity means the variability among living organisms of
all kinds, including terrestrial and aquatic (marine and inland water)
organisms, and the ecological complexes of which they are part; it in-
cludes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems
(Council of the European Communities, 1992). This is the denition that
was adopted by the 150 nations that signed the Convention on Biological
Diversity at the United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development (UNCED). According to the Rio Convention, the objective
of biodiversity conservation is the sustainable use of its components
and the fair and equitable sharing of the benets arising out of the uti-
lization of genetic resources, including appropriate access to such re-
sources and the appropriate transfer of relevant technologies,
considering all rights over those resources and technologies(Council of
the European Communities, 1992).
Europe is home to a unique natural diversity, with areas of high
biodiversity globally recognized and protected under various protection
gures. In addition, many of its species are threatened in Europe (Eu-
ropean Environment Agency, 2005). Protected areas are essential for
biodiversity conservation (Dudley, 2008). In this sense, proposals have
been developed to combat the loss of biodiversity since the middle of the
20th century at national, European and international level (Vel´
azquez,
2008). Systematic conservation planning is necessary to ensure the long-
term maintenance of biodiversity (Groves et al, 2009).
One of the largest internationally coordinated actions of vital
importance for biodiversity conservation is the Natura 2000 Network of
protected areas in the European Union (EU). The main objective of this
approach is to guarantee the persistence of the most valuable species and
habitats in a long term perspective. These species and habitats are
covered by the Birds Directive (Council of the European Communities,
2009), and the Habitats Directive (Council of the European Commu-
nities, 1992).
Therefore, the Natura 2000 Network is based on the Birds Directive
* Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: virincon@ucm.es (V. Rinc´
on), javier.velazquez@ucavila.es (J. Vel´
azquez), ana.hernando@ucavila.es (A. Hernando), fernando.herraez@ucavila.
es (F. Herr´
aez), beatriz.sanchez@ucavila.es (B. S´
anchez), tomas.santamaria@ucavila.es (T. Santamaría), dsmata@ucm.es (D. S´
anchez-Mata).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Ecological Indicators
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/ecolind
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2021.108024
Received 20 January 2021; Received in revised form 20 July 2021; Accepted 22 July 2021
Ecological Indicators 129 (2021) 108024
2
(2009/147/EC), which declares the Special Protection Areas for Birds
(SPAs), and the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC, which will dene the
Special Conservation Areas (SCAs) and thus allows protecting habitats,
ora and fauna of community interest. Important are the sites of com-
munity interest (SCIs), which will be understood as SACs when the
appropriate management measures are applied to them, either through a
Natural Resources Management Plan or a Master Plan for Use and
Management. The member states are responsible for selecting the areas
of community interest that will form part of the Network, as well as
applying a conservation measure to them. Currently, the Natura 2000
Network contains more than 27,000 sites covering 18% of the land in the
European Union (European Commission, 2016). The Habitats Directive
already raises the importance of conserving or, where appropriate,
improving the connectivity of the Natura 2000 Network. In Spain, there
are 118 areas listed in Annex I and 263 species listed in Annex II to the
Habitats Directive. On the other hand, there are 125 species listed in
Annex I of the Birds Directive. All these species are present throughout
the land and marine waters of Spain (Ministerio para la Transici´
on
Ecol´
ogica, 2019). The Natura 2000 Network in Spain currently com-
prises 1467 sites of Community importance (SCIs), which are included in
the lists of SCIs approved by the European Commission, and 644 Special
Protection Areas for Birds (SPAs) which cover a total surface of
approximately 210,000 km
2
. Out of the total extension of the Natura
2000 Network in Spain, more than 137,000 km
2
represent the land area,
which corresponds to about 27% of the Spanish territory, and about
72,500 km
2
to the sea surface (Ministerio para la Transici´
on Ecol´
ogica,
2019).
To achieve the conservation objectives of the Natura 2000 Network,
a good selection of important sites for biodiversity is necessary. This can
be achieved by using values of importance for biodiversity (V.I.B.),
through which the different conservation criteria such as habitats, pro-
tected species or land uses, are related. Based on this V.I.B., the best
areas for the extension of the Natura 2000 Network will be selected,
which would improve connectivity between these areas.
Many connectivity studies have been carried out in recent years, as a
crucial part of biodiversity conservation planning (Hodgson et al., 2016;
Olds et al., 2011). The systematic evaluation of conservation to improve
connectivity should be highlighted in this regard (Correa et al., 2016;
Beger et al., 2010; Bottrill and Pressey, 2012; Vel´
azquez et al., 2017;
Tian et al., 2017), and the fact that there is no legislation that establishes
a better way to preserve natural areas as well as the lack of parameters
and methods to select other new areas. Connectivity plays a transcen-
dental role in the interactions between species and landscapes and is
therefore a fundamental element in the structure of the landscape. The
21st century prototype of connectivity conservation is being pursued
(Crooks and Sanjayan, 2006; Worboys et al., 2010) through hundreds of
habitat network initiatives around the world (Bennett and Mulongoy,
2006). The Natura 2000 Network is created to provide connectivity to
the natural spaces that compose it.
Ecological connectivity can be dened as the ability of a territory to
facilitate to a greater or lesser extent the movements of species and
ecological ows between habitat tesserae (Taylor et al., 1993). Con-
nectivity makes genetic variability among different populations
possible, as well as increasing not only the capacity to recover from any
type of disturbance, but it will also enhance the guarantees of survival of
populations against possible local extinctions (Saura et al., 2011).
Ecological connectivity is currently affected and reduced by several
processes, basically anthropogenic alterations such as changes in land
use (agriculture, urbanization, construction of road infrastructures, etc.)
(Gurrutxaga and Lozano, 2010). This type of alterations in the territory
reduce the continuous surface of vegetation, and increase isolated areas,
and therefore disconnected. This is known as habitat fragmentation
(Forman, 1995). Such isolated zones that arise due to fragmentation
may be like each other or have very different characteristics because of
their new sizes, shapes, boundaries, etc. (Forman, 1995). For this reason,
the existence of connectivity between the different natural spaces is
important (Ministerio para la Transici´
on Ecol´
ogica, 2019). Ecological
connectivity requires continuity and coherence of the landscape; in this
sense, ecological corridors acquire high importance, since they act as
connectors of signicant regions for the conservation of biodiversity that
decrease the negative effects derived from habitats fragmentation
(García and Abad, 2014). Corridors work by linking two or more areas
with similar environmental characteristics. In this way, they secure the
conservation of ecological diversity and biological evolutionary pro-
cesses through the migration and dispersal of species (Bennett and
Mulongoy, 2006). In addition, the intensity of ecological ows is greater
than in the rest of the territory (Simberloff, 1992).
These reasons show the need to conserve and restore protected
natural spaces by improving the connectivity of the territory, given that
it is a fundamental element for the survival of species (De la Fuente et al.,
2018). Ecological connectivity is the most effective if it ensures preser-
vation of zonal-specic communities that favour aboriginal species. At
the same time, one should take into account that corridors may accel-
erate dissemination of invasive species as well which could become
critical in highly transformed areas. Hence, measures to monitor and
control, if possible, alterations in species composition of corridors are
needed in some cases. Though the importance of ecological connectivity
for animal migration is well-known, a planner should not ignore mul-
tifunctionality of corridors both in desirable and undesirable senses. On
the one hand, high connectivity of zonal-specic communities in most
cases ensures control over runoff formation, erosion, natural hazards
(mudows, landslides, extensive oods, etc.), and local climate. On the
other hand, continuity of uniform land cover may result in rapid un-
desirable expansion of natural and/or anthropogenic disturbances. For
example, in some xerophytic forest communities, management activity
is aimed at articial fragmentation of forest cover to prevent expansion
of re events. The challenge for connectivity studies is how to harmonize
the needs to enhance natural ecological ows and to avoid detrimental
effects resulting from disturbances. The objectives of the Natura 2000
Network can only be achieved through the optimal location of the areas
to be protected; in fact, the establishment of nature reserves is a
fundamental pillar of regional conservation strategies (Myers et al.,
2000; Maiorano et al., 2007; Kingsland, 2002), since the establishment
of biological reserves in habitats is a tool for combating biodiversity loss
(Batisse, 1982; Chazdon et al., 2009). The provision of information as
well as criteria to identify conservation priorities is the main objective of
the ecological assessment (Roberts et al., 2003). Therefore, in order to
select protected sites, it is absolutely necessary to dene specic criteria
for the conservation of biological diversity (Geneletti and Van Duren,
2008). In this sense, the optimal selection of sites to be protected is the
foundation on which the decision-making process for nature conserva-
tion should be based (Hernando et al., 2010; Teeffelen and Atte, 2008).
Some methods have been applied at the national and international levels
to identify protected areas that act as nature reserves where the repre-
sentation of diversity is maximized (Pressey et al., 1996; Margules and
Pressey, 2000; Xu et al., 2017; Cantú et al., 2014; Gaston et al., 2006).
For all these reasons, Member States must acquire clear criteria whereby
it is possible to identify and dene protected areas at the European level
in order to improve conservation and nature protection (F¨
orster and
Kleinschmit, 2006).
The purpose of this work is to determine whether the areas included
in the Natura 2000 Network proposed by the Autonomous Communities
(Andalucía and Castilla y Le´
on) have been correctly assigned and
delimited considering their environmental values. The proposal of these
new Natura 2000 network boundaries will allow us to evaluate the
current ecological connectivity capacity of the habitats of the study area.
2. Material and methods
2.1. Study area
The study area focuses on the two largest regions/autonomous
V. Rinc´
on et al.
Ecological Indicators 129 (2021) 108024
3
communities in Spain: Andalucía, which has a total area of 87.599 km
2
and Castilla y Le´
on, which has a total area of 94.224 km
2
(Fig. 1).
Natura 2000 Network in Andalucía covers a total extension of 2.67
million hectares. Of this total, 2,59 million hectares are terrestrial and
only 0,07 million are marine areas. In this way, are distinguished 63
Special Protection Areas (SPA), 190 Sites of Community Interest (SCI)
and 163 Special Conservation Areas (SCA).
The Natura 2000 Network in Castilla y Le´
on is made up of 70 SPAs,
with a total surface area of 1.997.977 ha, and 120 SCAs, with a surface
area of 1.890.600 ha, representing 21,20% and 20,06% of the region
respectively, taking into account the overlap between different areas,
the total surface area of the Network in Castile and Leon is 2.461.759 ha,
occupying 26,13% of Castilla y Le´
on (Fig. 2).
2.2. Methodology
The proposed methodology for the analysis of biodiversity in
Andalucía and Castilla y Le´
on, as well as for the assessment of connec-
tivity of Natura 2000 areas, presents four different phases (Vel´
azquez
et al., 2017; Rinc´
on et al., 2019):
First phase (Cartographic database): The aim of this phase is to
carry out an inventory, where relevant information for the analysis of
the biological diversity of the protected zones will be collected. The
selection criteria to be considered will also be established at this
stage.
Second phase (Analysis and assessment of important areas for
biodiversity conservation): A multi-criteria analysis is carried out
to obtain a map of the of Value of Importance for Biodiversity (V.I.B.)
in Andalucía and Castilla y Le´
on. Once the V.I.B. in the study area has
been calculated, a map will display the different values of impor-
tance for biodiversity.
Third phase (Study of the layout of the Natura 2000 network and
zoning proposal in Andalucía and Castilla y Le´
on): Generation of
scenarios for a proposal of zoning for Natura 2000 conservation. In
this way, a new zoning proposal is obtained for 4 different scenarios,
which has considered the V.I.B., the different land uses (CORINE
Land Cover 2012 by Copernicus) and the areas currently included in
the Natura 2000 Network.
Fourth phase (Analysis of connectivity at different levels of
biodiversity importance): Connectivity analysis for the different
zoning scenarios of Natura 2000 sites in Andalucía and Castilla y
Le´
on is obtained. On the one hand, structural connectivity Morpho-
logical Spatial Pattern Analysis (MSPA) (Attorre et al., 2007) will be
analysed, it measures the number of connecting elements present as
cores or ecological corridors in the study area. On the other hand, the
second index that we applied is the Probability of Connectivity (PC)
(Attorre et al., 2007). This index measures the importance of each of
the connecting elements previously analysed by means of structural
connectivity.
The following gure (Fig. 3) shows an outline of the phases to be
followed in the methodology.
2.2.1. Phase I. Cartographic database
The factors selected for this work are the percentage of amphibians,
birds, mammals, sh, reptiles and total fauna; species included in N.C.E.
S.; species included in Habitats Directive and Birds Directive; percentage
of protected habitats and Shannon Biodiversity index (Shannon and
Weaver, 1949).
Cartographic information for each factor has been taken from reli-
able databases of the following public administration websites. These
sources are:
Habitats Directive Protected areas.
Habitats Directive Protected species.
Birds Directive Protected Species.
Corine Land Cover (CLC) 2012.
National Biodiversity Inventory (NBI): NBI consists in a grid of 10
×10 km. In each cell of the grid, the different species of mammals,
reptiles, sh, birds and amphibians are counted. These data are very
relevant to determine the species richness in the study area, ac-
cording to the existence of species in the grid.
National Catalogue of Endangered Species (NCES): NCES includes
the taxa or populations of the threatened biodiversity. In the cata-
logue there are categories that the species are confronted with:
critically endangered, endangered species and vulnerable species.
At this stage, the evaluation and selection of the main criteria to
identify the most suitable location for the areas that require protection
under Natura 2000, according to their biodiversity value, was also
addressed. From the information collected, the indicators whereby it is
possible to evaluate the biodiversity of a site have been used to dene
the criteria (Rinc´
on et al., 2019).
2.2.2. Phase II. Analysis and assessment of important areas for biodiversity
conservation
The main objective of the second phase is to carry out an analysis and
to process of the information. This is carrying out and processing in-
formation through a multi criteria analysis and based on the results we
will obtain a map of the Value of Importance for Biodiversity (V.I.B.).
Therefore, multi-criteria analysis aims to establish a V.I.B. that functions
as a valid criterion and can be considered for decision making in
biodiversity conservation.
To achieve this goal, each criterion (Table 1) was rst evaluated by a
group of 5 experts (academic experts in connectivity, biodiversity
management experts, members of the public administration and others
stakeholders) establishing a weight ranging from (15). It is understood
that value 1 is the least important for biodiversity, with 5 being the most
important. The experts were selected according to their experience in
research, biodiversity management and conservation and organizations
for the preservation of biodiversity (Rinc´
on et al., 2019).
Multicriteria analysis is used through Multi-Attribute Utility Theory
(Attorre et al., 2007). The scores for each criterion are summed (Lott,
1926). This method is considered one of the best designed systems in the
world (Eraslan, 2013). The scoring method has three characteristics: the
use of rating factors, the factors are graded on a numerical scale and the
weights reect the importance of each factor (Milkovich et al., 2014).
Fig. 1. Study area. Regions of Andalucía and Castilla y Le´
on in Spain.
V. Rinc´
on et al.
Ecological Indicators 129 (2021) 108024
4
Fig. 2. Natura 2000 Network distribution in Castilla y Le´
on and Andalucía.
Fig. 3. Methodology for the analysis of connectivity of Natura 2000 areas.
Table 1
Pixel 1 Structural connectivity data in Andalucía.
Activity Structural connectivity (MSPA): Pixel 1
Natura 2000 Network Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
Study area
(%)
Andalucía
(%)
Study area
(%)
Andalucía
(%)
Study area
(%)
Andalucía
(%)
Study area
(%)
Andalucía
(%)
Study area
(%)
Andalucía
(%)
Cores 97.67 15.72 97.37 30.99 97.04 19.51 97.09 18.57 97.38 17.62
Islets 0.13 0.02 0.10 0.03 0.10 0.02 0.10 0.02 0.11 0.02
Perforations 0.05 0.01 0.09 0.03 0.18 0.04 0.27 0.05 0.30 0.05
Edges 1.87 0.30 2.16 0.69 2.46 0.49 2.31 0.44 1.98 0.36
Loops 0 0 0.01 0 0.01 0 0.01 0 0.01 0
Bridges 0.09 0.01 0.09 0.03 0.07 0.01 0.07 0.01 0.08 0.01
Branches 0.18 0.03 0.18 0.06 0.14 0.03 0.15 0.03 0.15 0.03
V. Rinc´
on et al.
Ecological Indicators 129 (2021) 108024
5
From these scores, a parts per unit of the total is calculated. This method
is used to evaluate various solutions taking into account selected
criteria. The following equation is used for this purpose:
VIB :p1u1(xi1) + p2u2(xi2) + +pnun(xin)
Where:
pn=weights
un=Subjectiveutilities
xin =Actionsunderanalysis
The table in appendix A.1 shows the description and the different
weights obtained for each criterion.
Taking into account the obtained weights, they are applied to the
different values of each criterion that each 10x10 km grid has. By doing
the summation, the V.I.B. for each grid is obtained and thus the V.I.B.
map can be created, achieving one of the objectives of this work: the
creation of a map showing the areas with the most important biodi-
versity values, according to the Natura 2000 framework.
The generated map of Value of Importance for Biodiversity (V.I.B.) is
obtained by means of the resulted values from phase II. This step was
achieved by interpolation of V.I.B. for the 10 ×10 km grid of the Na-
tional Biodiversity Inventory.
Each grid is assigned a value (V.I.B.). In order to perform the inter-
polation, the centroid of each grid is calculated and the V.I.B. value is
assigned to it. Once the values in points are available, the interpolation
is done. An important feature of the method is that it has a low range of
error compared to other methods. Specically, this range of error is R
2
=7,1688. In addition, this method uses statistical models that give us
the possibility of obtaining prediction models, standard errors of pre-
diction, probabilities (Rinc´
on et al, 2019).
Once the interpolation method has been set up, a map of value of
importance for biodiversity (V.I.B.) is generated, this one is linked to the
map of the Natura 2000 Network sites in Andalucía and Castilla y Le´
on.
2.3. Phase III. Study of the layout of the Natura 2000 network and zoning
proposal in Andalucía and Castilla y Le´
on
Within this third phase, the main objective is to obtain the different
scenarios (different zoning levels to calculate connectivity) in the study
area. For this purpose, a combination of the V.I.B. and the land uses
(CORINE) is carried out for the zoning we were selecting among 4 levels
(level 1, level 2, level 3 and level 4) being level 1 the most restrictive.
Land use in each zone was expected to be well-adapted to landscape
conditions, need for nature protection and enhancing connectivity.
The areas that obtained higher values of V.I.B. were combined with
the current land uses (CLC 2012) to dene the new zoning of the Natura
2000 Network.
Urban-industrial covers were eliminated in this process because they
are not important for biodiversity conservation.
In each of the land use zones, it was possible to classify the distri-
bution of the V.I.B. according to the V.I.B. quartiles. If the V.I.B. value
belonged to the rst quartile (i.e. 25% of the highest values) the highest
level on protection was recommended for a polygon. The value within
the lower quartile required the least strict protection measures or no
such measures. A classication of these polygons into 4 levels of pro-
tection was made according to both the ideal land uses for such con-
servation and the criteria for biodiversity conservation.
Protection levels were then identied (Table A2), they were grouped
depending on the type of protection and the given level by various land
use classications. Considering the level of protection, the zones can be
grouped according to the characteristics of importance for biodiversity
in the study area (Rinc´
on et al., 2019).
In this way, a new zoning proposal was obtained for 4 different
scenarios, which has considered the value of importance for biodiversity
(V.I.B.), the different types of land uses, (CLC 2012), and the zones
currently included in the Natura 2000 Network.
2.3.1. Phase IV. Analysis of connectivity at different levels of biodiversity
importance
After executing the previous phases, we are about to execute the
connectivity analysis (structural connectivity analysis).
The maps and values derived from the previous phase serve as input
for connectivity analysis which has been developed through the Guidos
software (Vogt, 2016; Vogt and Riitters, 2017), analyzing connectivity
among the different scenarios generated from the Value of Importance
for Biodiversity (V.I.B.).
The Morphological Spatial Pattern Analysis (MSPA) is based on a
mathematical analysis of morphological patterns and can classify the
main core habitats, connectors and isolated areas of a given territory
(Hernando et al, 2010). Thanks to this categorization, spatial patterns at
pixel level can be shown on a map, making very sensitive variations over
time (Saura and Pascual-Hortal, 2007). In this case, we will carry out the
analysis with three different pixel sizes, so that comparative results can
be obtained between the different edge sizes (Pixel 1, Pixel 2 and Pixel 3
in MSPA program). The preparation of these maps have been introduced
in the program Guidos, which is responsible for development of con-
nectivity in the study areas. To this end, the maps of differing levels of
biodiversity are introduced in .tiffformat.
As mentioned above, there are 4 different levels of maps and there-
fore, 15 maps will be produced, one for the analysis of the Natura 2000
Network, and another for the connectivity of each of the levels in 3
different pixels. Pixel 1, where the cores predominate over the connec-
tors, and as the number of pixels increases, the surface of the cores de-
creases and the size of the ecological corridors increases. In this way, we
have pixel 2, which is an intermediate level, and pixel 3, which obtains
the highest corridor surface area values.
A reclassication of the map value is then established:
Foreground: The value in the foreground indicates the areas pro-
tected or to be protected at the different levels.
Background: The study areas that are outside the foreground.
When running the analysis of each pixel input to the program,
included as an area of interest, each pixel is assigned to an MSPA class. In
this way, the input foreground image will have an identical surface to
the output image with class assignment (Vogt, 2016).
The MSPA classes dened are as follows (Saura and Rubio, 2010):
Core: Represents the inner surface of habitats that is not altered by
the edge effect.
Islet: These are habitats that are isolated and, due to their limited
size, cannot form a core.
Bridge: These are connectors that establish a relationship between
one core and another. They are recognized as effective corridors.
Branch: Linear connector of pixels that joins a bridge, loop, perfo-
ration or edge at each end.
Loop: Narrow surface of pixels connecting a single core within a
hole.
Perforation: Perimeter surrounding an area of background within a
core.
Edge: Perimeter of pixels that includes each core unit.
Analysis of the connectivity importance (PC):
The PC (Probability of Connectivity) index makes it possible to assess
functional connectivity based on habitat availability, dispersal proba-
bilities and graph structures (Soille and Vogt, 2009). As shown by Saura
and Rubio (2010) the dPC importance values for each landscape element
can be divided into three fractions that quantify the different ways in
which that landscape can contribute to habitat connectivity and
availability:
V. Rinc´
on et al.
Ecological Indicators 129 (2021) 108024
6
dPC =dPCintra +dPCflux +dPCconnector
where dPC is the amount of area connected (intrapatch connectivity),
dPcCintra is Available habitat area provided by patch, dPCux is the
potential amount of dispersal ow expected to exit or reach a habitat
patch, dPCconnector is the extent to which a particular landscape
element acts as a connecting or stepping stone between other forest
habitat areas (by cores and bridges) (Saura et al., 2011).
Vel´
azquez et al. (2017) recommends the application of this index for
the analysis of connectivity due to its capacity to reect habitat loss and
landscape fragmentation.
From the previously performed MSPA analysis, a network composed
of cores and bridges can be extracted, without considering the rest of the
analysis classes (Vogt, 2016). In order to analyze the importance of
connectivity, the signicance of cores and links is studied using the dPC
index (Percentage variation in Probability of Connectivity). This index
measures the percentage reduction in connectivity that would occur due
to the loss of a given core or link (Saura and Rubio, 2010).
This analysis has been carried out for the 5 scenarios (actual pro-
posed scenarios levels 14) mentioned above with 3 different edge
sizes (Pixel 1, 2 and 3) for each scenario.
3. Results and discussion
3.1. Natura 2000 network layout
Once the interpolation method has been implemented, a value map
of importance for biodiversity (V.I.B.) is generated, which is linked to
the map of the areas of the Natura 2000 Network in Andalucía and
Castilla y Le´
on (Fig. 4) (Rinc´
on et al., 2019).
These maps show the degree of correspondence between the values
of importance for biodiversity in Andalucía and Castilla y Le´
on and the
boundaries of Natura 2000 Network. In this way, it is possible to verify
the disposition of the territories according to pre-established criteria of
great importance for conservation (Rinc´
on et al., 2019).
The maps analysis indicates that not all regions with a high biodi-
versity value are currently included in the Natura 2000 Network and
therefore, through this work, it has been possible to develop a clear and
concise methodology for a correct zoning of the Natura 2000 Network in
relation to the conservation of natural areas with a signicant biodi-
versity value. According to Vel´
azquez et al. (2019) there is a relationship
between areas with higher species richness and areas with good
connectivity.
There are limitations to applying this methodology, the most
important of which is the state of the data, which can vary from state to
state, making unication more complicated. In addition, it should be
borne in mind that each country has its own data, possibly with different
grid sizes, and some data may be out of date.
3.2. Proposals for zoning of the Natura 2000 network
The relevance of this study is its application for an adequate man-
agement and conservation of the Natura 2000 Network in the member
states of the European Union, guaranteeing the natural resources of each
area. This facilitates planning for conservation or restoration measures
for protected natural areas. For this purpose, we will propose a uniform
and simple method, so that it can be extrapolated to any European
territory.
Following the application of the methodology explained in phase III,
4 levels of protection have been established (Figs. 5 and 6), ranging from
1 to 4, so that level 1 denotes the most exclusive zones, made up of the
spaces with the highest V.I.B., while level 4 has the greatest non-realistic
number of the potential areas for biodiversity conservation comprising
almost the whole province. Each one of the protection levels is over-
lapped with the areas of the Natura 2000 Network and are presented as
zoning proposal (Rinc´
on et al., 2019).
Based on the available data, new bounderies have been proposed
adding 1.600.000 ha under Natura 2000 network. In this way, the areas
included in the SCIs and SPAs have a certain V.I.B., and this can be seen
on the conclusions section (Rinc´
on et al., 2019).
This zoning has been done starting from the V.I.B. map generated in
the previous phases. Thus, it is quite consistent that the Natura 2000
Network does not cover all the proposed areas and that have a high
biodiversity interest value. On the other hand, it is possible to observe
zones that do not have a great V.I.B., and that are included in the Natura
2000 Network (Rinc´
on et al., 2019). As indicated in the methodology,
each of the proposals has been based on biodiversity criteria which
makes possible a clear vision of the territories of greatest importance in
terms of conservation and protection of the environment.
3.3. Structural connectivity analysis (MSPA)
Below are the maps and values obtained using the Guidos software
for the Natura 2000 Network and the different levels of protection ac-
cording to the value for biodiversity.
In this way, the maps represent the distribution of the elements
present in the MSPA analysis. This will make it possible to analyze the
greater or lesser connectivity depending on the patches and linking el-
ements and compare them with the entire territory of Andalucía and
Castilla y Le´
on.
It is important to know that as the number of pixels increases, there is
a notable increase in the surface of the edges and, as a result, the surface
of all the cores is reduced while the percentage of surface occupied by
the connectors (links, bridges, and ramications) has increased consid-
erably (Hernando et al., 2010).
The amount of perforations is insignicant, and with respect to the
connecting elements, they are limited and the ones that stand out the
most are the bridges and the ramications. At the level 1, the result is
quite like the current scenario. There is a clear abundance of elements
that are identied as cores. In addition, the surface area of isolated sites
Fig. 4. Classication of Value of Importance for Biodiversity (V.I.B.). Hatched areas belong to Natura 2000 Network.
V. Rinc´
on et al.
Ecological Indicators 129 (2021) 108024
7
is reduced compared to the previous scenario. This could be translated as
a poor improvement in connectivity.
On the other hand, there has been an increase in bridges, which are
the most important connections, since they are identied as the true
ecological corridors. About level 2, it is again repeated that most of the
territory studied is made up of areas identied as cores. This fact is quite
coherent, given that all the different levels are related to each other. At
this level, there is a minimal increase in cores. But it is important to
mention that the number of perforations has increased the surface of the
backgroundinside a core which implies that the loss of habitat results
in the loss of species dynamics (Thompson et al., 2017). In addition, the
surface area of the isolated sites has been slightly increased, and the
surface area of the connectors has been reduced. Thus, level 2 would be
the most unfavorable scenario for biodiversity conservation and
connectivity.
In the level 3, the data obtained are very similar to level 2. In pixel 1
there is little increase in the cores, as well as the existing perforations in
these cores.
Finally, in scenario 4, there is a small increase in the areas distin-
guished as cores, as well as islands and perforations. However, what
acquires greater importance at this level is that there is an increase in
linking bridges, which are considered as ecological corridors and
therefore this scenario becomes very important. Therefore, level 4 is a
scenario that has a great signicance in relation to the conservation of
species biodiversity as well as improved connectivity, given the large
surface area of ecological corridors (bridges).
In general, we could say that, the new zoning favours the increase in
the number of existing cores. It seems that, because of this, perforations
Fig. 5. Zoning proposal levels for biodiversity conservation in Andalucía. Level 1 areas are the most valuable biodiversity zones and Level 4 areas have the lowest
value for conservation.
Fig. 6. Zoning proposal levels for biodiversity conservation in Castilla y Le´
on. Level 1 areas are the most valuable biodiversity zones and Level 4 areas have the
lowest value for conservation.
V. Rinc´
on et al.
Ecological Indicators 129 (2021) 108024
8
are also incremented. However, it should be noted that there is an
enhancement of connectivity as the number of links, bridges and rami-
cations rises. Level 1 is considered the most favorable zoning, given
that it is the one with the largest number of corridors and the largest area
of cores. On the other side, there is a slight reduction in the surface area
of isolated areas. For all these reasons, we could say that by means of this
method an enhancement of the connectivity of the Natura 2000 Network
can be provided.
Lastly, in the following table (Table 1), the MSPA data is shown, so
that the improvement produced by the levels of importance of biodi-
versity compared to the Natura 2000 Network can be noted more
accurately.
In appendix A all the tables related to the MSPA in Andalucía and
Castilla y Le´
on can be found.
What has been analysed here is the percentage of area occupied by
ecological cores and corridors, but the fact of having a greater number of
cores or corridors does not mean that these have a greater or lesser
importance. In other words, the number of ecological cores and corri-
dors that exists in the study area has been analysed, however not their
importance.
3.4. Analysis of connectivity importance (PC)
Maps shown at Fig. 7 were obtained based on the analysis of the
connectivity importance conducted in the previous phase (Saura et al.,
2011).
Firstly, the connectivity of the current Natura 2000 Network scenario
has been analysed. It is important to know that as the number of pixels
increases, there is a notable increase in the surface of the edges, and as a
result, the surface of all the cores is reduced while the percentage of
surface occupied by the connectors (links, bridges, and ramications)
has increased considerably.
Red areas can be identied as cores, while ecological corridors
(bridges) have a blue or greenish colouring (Saura et al., 2011) (Fig. 8).
As shown in the resulting map, if the pixel 1 map is analysed, there are
cores of a lower tonality. This means that they are cores of vital
importance, given that in addition to acting as habitats where different
species can perform their functions, they act as connectivity function
between the different cores.
On the other hand, the map shows evidence that level 1 is slightly
better than the current Natura 2000 scenario. This is due to the presence
of cores of vital importance, which in addition to acting as habitats
where the various species can carry out their functions, provide a con-
nectivity function between the distinct core areas, and also a larger
number of ecological corridors, all of it makes possible the survival of
the species.
The maximum value of ecological corridors at pixel 1 of this level is
approximately 0,48 in Andalucía and 0,49 in Castilla y Le´
on, while in
the current Natura 2000 scenario, the most important ecological
corridor is 0,045 in Andalucía and 0,0012 in Castilla y Le´
on, this implies
a substantial improvement in the importance of connectivity in Castilla y
Le´
on. We have already commented in this work on the importance of
ecological corridors, and a crucial difference is shown in the various
levels.
With respect to level 2, all the core areas acquire big signicance,
given that it is substantial to have ecosystems where the species perform
their vital functions. But on the other hand, no core of those presented
has a minimum importance for the improvement of connectivity.
In contrast, we see that the corridor with the greatest relevance has a
connectivity importance value of 0,19 in Andalucía and 0,612 in Castilla
y Le´
on, which is higher than the current Natura 2000 Network.
In short, level 2, considering not only corridors but also the core
zones, is the most unfavourable level for biodiversity conservation and
improved connectivity.
Level 3 is quite like level 1 with the difference that there is a larger
surface area of important cores, but on the other hand, as the number of
pixels increases, ecological corridors become more important than level
1.
Thus, the maximum connectivity value of ecological corridors at
pixel 1, of this level is approximately 0,21 and 1,36, being barely higher
than the current Natura 2000 scenario and level 2 being clearly lower
than the maximum connectivity value of ecological corridors at level 1.
However, at pixels 2 and 3, the ecological corridors obtain an approxi-
mate maximum value of 29 in Andalucía and near 3 in Castilla y Le´
on.
Fig. 7. Analysis of connectivity importance in Andalucía. Level 1. a) Pixel 1 b) Pixel 2 c) Pixel 3.
V. Rinc´
on et al.
Ecological Indicators 129 (2021) 108024
9
Therefore, we could conclude that it is important to take level 3 into
account for biodiversity conservation and improved connectivity.
Finally, level 4 is the most important for biodiversity conservation
(not with the higher V.I.B.) and improved connectivity. This is due to the
presence of core areas of essential signicance, which in addition to
acting as habitats where species can operate, exert a function of con-
nectivity between the various cores and also a greater number of surface
of ecological corridors, making possible the survival of species.
In this way it can be dened that the most important levels are 1,3
and 4, being proposed as a zoning that can optimise the conservation
and connectivity of the species of the current Natura 2000 Network.
From a planning perspective, they can be seen as bottlenecks and crucial
areas for species movement and as fragile elements that are likely to be
the rst to be affected by landscape changes and management decisions
(Saura et al., 2011). In Andalusia, the importance of the cores is lower at
all levels than the current importance. With respect to the ecological
corridors, in pixel 1 they acquire greater importance than the current
importance, however, in pixels 2 and 3 this importance is less, as the size
of the corridor is greater. The opposite occurs in Castilla y Le´
on, where,
as the level and pixel size increases, the importance of both nuclei and
ecological corridors increases. Comparing both cases, this methodology
is better adapted for Castilla y Le´
on, although if we take into account
that the areas with the highest value are those at level 1, the method-
ology works for both territories.
Connectivity is one of the most important aspects to take into ac-
count when assessing the conservation status of Natura 2000 habitats
and sites (Hernando et al., 2017). Species richness in each habitat patch
(local) and in the entire network (regional) declines as habitat is lost
(Thompson et al., 2017).
Lastly, in the following tables (Tables 2 and 3), the importance of
connectivity data is attached, so that the improvement produced by the
levels of importance of biodiversity compared to the Natura 2000
Network can be noted more accurately.
The results obtained can be assimilated to those obtained by Saura
et al. (2011), who used the PC-innity index, in which an increase in
bridge connectivity also increases the possibility of species moving from
one core to another.
The limitations mentioned above must be taken into account
(different grid sizes, outdate data, etc). If the data is unied in all the
Fig. 8. Zoom to PC Index. Cores are red and bridges are blue. (For interpretation of the references to colour in this gure legend, the reader is referred to the web
version of this article.)
Table 2
Analysis of the connectivity importance data (PC) in Andalucía.
Connecting
elements
Analysis of the connectivity importance data (PC): Pixel 1
Natura 2000
network
Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
Cores 0.052 0.4768 0.194 0.1145 0.41993
Ecological
corridors
0.045 0.47726 0.194 0.207012 0.7045
Connecting
elements
Analysis of the connectivity importance data (PC): Pixel 2
Natura 2000
network
Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
Cores 0.789 0.2707 2.774 2.3093 2.3093
Ecological
corridors
29.9 0.4514 2.774 29.2491 29.2491
Connecting
elements
Analysis of the connectivity importance data (PC): Pixel 3
Natura 2000
network
Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level4
Cores 4.602 0.6305 3.852 6.294 5.1046
Ecological
corridors
29.96 0.4333 2.71 29.332 27.9397
Table 3
Analysis of the connectivity importance data (PC) in Castilla y Le´
on.
Connecting
elements
Analysis of the connectivity importance data (PC): Pixel 1
Natura 2000
network
Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
Cores 0.0011 0.0254 0.0008 1.3614 0.4022
Ecological
corridors
0.0012 0.0439 0.0612 1.3614 0.4934
Connecting
elements
Analysis of the connectivity importance data (PC): Pixel 2
Natura 2000
network
Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
Cores 0.002 0.0047 0.0072 2.6028 4.0881
Ecological
corridors
0.003 0.0033 0.0115 2.6026 4.0006
Connecting
elements
Analysis of the connectivity importance data (PC): Pixel 3
Natura 2000
network
Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level4
Cores 0.0021 0.0054 0.0075 2.8491 29.7768
Ecological
corridors
0.031 0.0044 0.0184 2.7955 29.8441
V. Rinc´
on et al.
Ecological Indicators 129 (2021) 108024
10
countries with Natura 2000 sites, the connectivity of all these sites at
European level would be improved, achieving the objectives of the
Natura 2000 Network.
4. Conclusions
The member countries of the European Union have been disorga-
nized in identifying conservation areas, due to the lack of clear guide-
lines for selecting protected areas. Despite this, attempts have been
made to establish optimal selection criteria by developing different
methodologies according to different approaches.
For this purpose, in this study, the conservation of biological di-
versity has been used as a point of view, so that the results obtained
show areas of high value for the conservation of this diversity. Using the
principle of spatial planning for conservation in designing the Natura
2000 network, can generate an optimum network for species conser-
vation, as it was foreseen in the EU Directive (Niculae et al., 2016). This
methodology allows the establishment of uniform and coherent criteria
that can be easily considered by the member countries of the European
Union, so that the process of evaluation and assignment of protected
areas can be consolidated. Its important to maintain functional con-
nectivity outside administrative boundaries in order to maintain Natura
2000 habitats and to avoid isolated cores (Estreguil et al., 2013).
It is possible to state that in this study the location of the protected
sites is very similar to the results obtained from the evaluation of the
biodiversity criteria. This means a zoning very close to the optimum has
been achieved, despite the fact that areas have been identied that
should be protected and yet they are not.
Likewise, the importance of the proposed new zoning lies in
improving connectivity between protected spaces. The new zoning
covers more areas of interest for biodiversity, as well as zones of great
importance in relation to connectivity. In this manner, the most
important ecological cores and corridors that allow the protection of
biodiversity are catalogued.
In any case, the relevance of the implementation of this assessment
lies in the appropriate land management by the European Union mem-
ber countries, which supports sustainable development through the
establishment of conservation areas that guarantee the necessary natu-
ral resources. It also facilitates compliance with European environ-
mental policy.
CRediT authorship contribution statement
Víctor Rinc´
on: Formal analysis, Methodology, Writing original
draft. Javier Vel´
azquez: Conceptualization, Project administration,
Investigation, Methodology, Formal analysis, Writing original draft.
Javier Guti´
errez: Formal analysis, Writing review & editing. Ana
Hernando: Data curation, Writing review & editing. Alexander
Khoroshev: Data curation, Writing review & editing. Inmaculada
G´
omez: Data curation, Writing review & editing. Fernando Herr´
aez:
Data curation, Writing review & editing. Beatriz S´
anchez: Data
curation, Writing review & editing. Juan Pablo Luque: Data curation.
Antonio García-abril: Data curation, Writing review & editing.
Tom´
as Santamaría: Data curation, Writing review & editing. Daniel
S´
anchez-Mata: Writing original draft.
Declaration of Competing Interest
The authors declare that they have no known competing nancial
interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to inuence
the work reported in this paper.
Appendix A. Supplementary data
Supplementary data to this article can be found online at https://doi.
org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2021.108024.
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... In addition, the European protected areas, especially those with permanent vegetation and forest/woodland communities, are considered extremely important to ensuring the connectivity of the Natura 2000 Network [18]. These types of habitats provide a pathway for species movement between patches without the influence of the degree of fragmentation of surrounding habitats [19]. The Natura 2000 Network of protected areas is made up of more than 27,000 sites that account for 18% of the territory of the EU [20]. ...
... Based on the work of Rincón et al. (2021) [19], a methodology was developed to test the improvement of connectivity including new proposed areas for inclusion in the Natura 2000 Network. The aim of the Natura 2000 Network is to protect habitats and species in their natural areas of distribution, and in order to protect these habitats and species, a value map of importance for biodiversity (VIB) was generated to propose 2 levels of protection of the territory for biodiversity conservation which overlapped with the Natura 2000 network. ...
... The second important areas and connections were the wedge-shaped part with the riparian zone from the Sierra Mountains in the south towards the city of Valladolid in the centre. Rincón et al. (2021) [19] stated that with climate change, the precipitation regime would decrease in the future and, accordingly, a very patchy habitat will be formed. In this context, restoration should be considered in these areas, especially in the southern part of the state, with a higher priority than the northern part. ...
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Habitats have been undergoing significant changes due to environmental processes and human impact that lead into habitat fragmentation and connectivity loss. To improve quality habitats and maintain ecological connectivity, elements that improve the connectivity of habitats need to be identified. To meet this goal, finding optimal pathways locations plays a key role for designing corridors for biodiversity conservation. Conducted in the Castilla y León region of Spain, this paper aims to determine optimal pathways and to enhance the connectivity of protected areas. To this end, three different scenarios were developed including the Natura 2000 network and their sur-roundings (Natura 2000, Level 0, and Level 1). We used Restoration Planner (RP) available in GuidosToolbox to analyze the network and detect pairwise optimum restoration pathways between the five largest network objects. Our results demonstrate that connector density varies across the region for each scenario. There was also a large variability in the length of connectors. Connectors were found mainly distributed around the center and northwestern part of Castilla y León. This paper also suggests that proposed new restoration pathways should increase in the study area. Thus, the findings can be used effectively for extensive planning and interpretation in biodiversity conservation.
... Some examples of habitat connectivity conservation are currently being carried out [30][31][32]. Additionally, one of the Natura 2000 Network objectives are to provide connectivity to the natural spaces and natural habitats that compose it [33]. ...
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The westernmost European nucleus of the 5220* Habitat of Community Interest (HCI) is located in the province of Málaga (Andalusia). In this area, the 5220* HCI is characterized by the presence of scrublands of Gymnosporia senegalensis subsp. europaea. This is a relict species in Europe, with inhabits only in the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula. The westernmost Iberian nuclei of the 5220* HCI are constituted by three isolated nuclei (Málaga–Rincón de la Victoria; Torremolinos; and Pizarra). These nuclei have been only partially mapped. The objectives were: to map the 5220* HCI characterized by G. senegalensis subsp. europaea in detail; to evaluate its degree of conservation (DC); and to identify the chronosequences of the evolution of this habitat from 1957 to 2021, and its fragmentation. Our results have contributed to generating a 1:10,000 scale cartography of the habitat. In general, the DC obtained was from good to excellent. With an excellent DC value, one inland locality (Pizarra) was highlighted. However, the highest reduction in the value of DC was observed in the localities of Torremolinos and Málaga–Rincón de la Victoria which, in addition, have reduced the area of occupancy (AOO) and are fragmented. It is important to note that some areas of Málaga–Rincón de la Victoria reached excellent values of DC, indicating the need to carry out protection.
... a ij F j operation, corrosion, and expansion. This method emphasizes the structural characteristics of the data and can well reflect the role of ecological patches in ecological processes and help to select the ecological source (Rincón et al. 2021). We extracted forest land, grassland, and water areas as research prospects, and other land types were taken as the research background. ...
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Accurate identification of priority areas for ecological restoration is an important prerequisite for ecological protection and restoration, but it is a current challenge in landscape planning. Northern Shaanxi, which is located in the middle of the Loess Plateau in China, was selected as a study area in this paper. A three-dimensional framework including natural potential, human disturbance, and landscape pattern factors was used to construct an ecological security evaluation index system, and spatial principal component analysis (SPCA) was used to quantitatively evaluate the ecological security levels of the study area. The ecological security assessment result was used as a resistance surface, and landscape elements were identified by morphological spatial pattern analysis (MSPA), minimum cumulative resistance (MCR) model and the gravity model. On this basis, priority areas for ecological restoration were identified by considering ecosystem security and the matching degree of landscape elements. The resulting area with low and moderately low security levels was 27,574.87 km² in size, accounting for 34.48% of the total study area, and the ecological security situation was not ideal. We identified seventeen ecological sources with an area of 5789.36 km², and the important ecological sources were mainly distributed in the south of the study area. We identified one hundred and thirty-six potential ecological corridors with a total length of 7431.12 km, including 16 important ecological corridors with a length of 1279.43 km. We also identified 83 ecological nodes, including 17 important ecological nodes. We found that the high matching degree of landscape elements included four watersheds with an area of 7571.17 km², mainly distributed in the southern part of the study area. Fifty-one basins with a low matching degree of landscape elements were identified, covering an area of 50,399.44 km² and mainly distributed in the west and north of the study area. We identified three levels of areas to be restored, of which the level I ecological restoration priority area was the smallest, at 7047.61 km². The areas of the level II ecological restoration priority area and the level III ecological restoration priority area were 20,379.35 km² and 27,866.35 km², respectively. The two areas were large and mainly distributed in the west and north of the study area. We discussed ecological restoration strategies for different levels of ecological restoration priority areas and provided new methods for identifying priority ecological restoration areas in the future.
... This method aims to identify key ecological patches and ecological corridors by comparing the importance of different landscape patches to ecological processes and ecological functions in the entire region, and to form a relatively stable and functionally effective biological habitat network system to achieve maintenance, or restoring regional landscape connectivity [13,14]. Maintaining or restoring landscape connectivity is one of the most effective solutions for biodiversity conservation in fragmented landscape environments [15,16]. Good landscape connectivity can facilitate the migration and dispersal of organisms, gene exchange and other key ecological processes [17]. ...
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The Guangdong–Hong Kong–Macao Greater Bay Area urban agglomeration is an urban agglomeration with some of the most intensive urbanization since 1980s. A large amount of cultivated land, forest land, water bodies and other land types in the region has been occupied by construction land, resulting in fragmented ecological landscapes and biodiversity in the region and causing many other ecological problems. Based on this, this paper takes the Guangdong–Hong Kong–Macao Greater Bay Area as a case study, constructs an ecological network of the dispersion scale of five species from 1990 to 2020 based on a morphological spatial pattern analysis (MSPA) method, identifies the ecological groups in the network and uses the core node-based community evolution path tracking algorithm to analyze the ecological groups in order to explore the changes of ecological network connectivity at different scales in the region and to reveal the overall and local characteristics and changes of the migratory space of terrestrial mammals with different dispersion capabilities. The research results show that: (1) From 1990 to 2020, the area of construction land in the Guangdong–Hong Kong–Macao Greater Bay Area increased sharply, with good connectivity in the northwest, southwest and eastern regions and poor connectivity in the central region. (2) There are obvious differences between the overall and local changes in the connectivity trends of multi-scale regional ecological networks. On the whole, the overall ecological connectivity of the ecological network at each scale showed a gradual upward trend, and the overall connectivity index IIC and the possible connectivity index PC gradually increased with the increase of the maximum dispersal distance of species. From the perspective of local patches, the larger the species dispersion scale, the larger the value of the revised betweenness centrality index and the patch possible connectivity index. (3) The distribution of ecological groups at different species dispersion scales is different, and the smaller the dispersal scale of the species, the greater the distribution of ecological groups. Small-scale species are limited by the maximum dispersal distance, and the range of their ecological groups is generally small. Small-scale (3 km), mesoscale (10 km) and large-scale (30 km) core nodes of ecological groups show a gradual increase trend, and the overall connectivity of ecological groups has improved. However, the core nodes of the extra-large-scale (60 km) and ultra-large-scale (100 km) ecological groups show a trend of decreasing fluctuations, and the overall connectivity within the ecological group has declined. This study is helpful to clarify the structural characteristics of regional ecological space and provide a theoretical basis for regional ecological planning.
... The morphological segmentation of binary patterns (Soille and Vogt, 2009) provides an effective method for characterising spatial patterns with emphasis on connections between their parts as measured at varying analysis scales. The method is now widely used for the analysis of landscape patterns such as those related to the fragmentation of forests or other natural land cover classes, e.g., (Ossola et al., 2019;Carlier et al., 2020;Rincón et al., 2021;Modica et al., 2021). This can be explained by its effectiveness at capturing the complexity of binary patterns and their connections by partitioning the foreground and background pixels of the corresponding binary images into mutually exclusive classes with a clear semantic meaning. ...
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The morphological segmentation of binary patterns provides an effective method for characterising spatial patterns with emphasis on connections between their parts as measured at varying analysis scales. The method is widely used for the analysis of landscape patterns such as those related to the fragmentation of forests or other natural land cover classes. This can be explained by its effectiveness at capturing the complexity of binary patterns and their connections by partitioning the foreground pixels of the corresponding binary images into mutually exclusive classes. While the principles of the method are conceptually simple, the definition of the classes relies on a series of advanced mathematical morphology operations whose actual implementation is not straightforward. In this paper, we propose an open source code for MSPA and detail its main components in the form of pseudo-code. We demonstrate its effectiveness for asynchronous processing of tera-pixel images and the synchronous exploratory analysis and rendering with Jupyter notebooks.
... However, MSPA mainly focuses on the construction and optimization of forests, green infrastructure, and ecological network patterns [37][38][39], while a limited amount of research has been conducted on wetlands. MSPA has also been limited to the study of the effects of parameter changes on landscape patterns [40,41]. In terms of quantitative evaluations of hydrological connectivity, most methods are derived from water system connectivity assessments, and there is no comprehensive method for assessing the hydrological connectivity of wetland systems. ...
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Hydrological connectivity is important for maintaining the stability and function of wetland ecosystems. Small-scale hydrological connectivity restricts large-scale hydrological cycle processes. However, long-term evolutionary studies and quantitative evaluation of the hydrological connectivity of wetlands in the Poyang Lake area have not been sufficiently conducted. In this study, we collected 21 Landsat remote sensing images and extracted land use data from 1989 to 2020, introducing a morphological spatial pattern analysis model to assess the wetland hydrological connectivity. A comprehensive method for evaluating the hydrological connectivity of wetlands was established and applied to the Poyang Lake area. The results showed that, over the course of 31 years, the wetland landscape in the Poyang Lake area changed dramatically, and the wetland area has generally shown a decreasing and then increasing trend, among which the core wetland plays a dominant role in the hydrological connectivity of the Poyang Lake area. In addition, the hydrological connectivity decreases as the core wetland area decreases. From 1989 to 2005, the landscape in the Poyang Lake area focused mainly on the transition from wetland to non-wetland. From 2005 to 2020, the conversion of wetland landscape types shows a clear reversal compared to the previous period, showing a predominant shift from non-wetland to wetland landscapes. The eco-hydrological connectivity of the wetlands in the Poyang Lake area from 1989 to 2020 first decreased, and then increased after 2005. In the early stage of the study (1989−2005), we found that the connectivity of 0.3444 in 2005 was the lowest value in the study period. A resolution of 30 m and an edge effect width of 60 m were optimal for studying the hydrological connectivity of wetlands in the Poyang Lake area. The main drivers of the changes in hydrological connectivity were precipitation and the construction of large-scale water conservation projects, as well as changes in land use. This study provides a good basis for assessing hydrological connectivity in a meaningful way, and is expected to provide new insights for maintaining and restoring biodiversity and related ecosystem services in the Poyang Lake area.
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Urbanization leads to land use change and fragmentation of green patches, affecting natural habitats and their connectivity. Scientific prediction and analysis of the impact of future land use change on green space connectivity are an effective tool for planning and evaluating urban sustainable development, especially for ecological protection in rapidly developing areas. In this study, an integrated method is proposed that uses the CA-Markov method and combines a morphological spatial pattern analysis (MSPA) with a graph theory analysis to jointly evaluate the impact of land use change on the habitat connectivity index under different urban development scenarios from two aspects of structural and functional connectivity. Using China’s rapidly developing Nanjing as the study area, the land use changes under four scenarios in 2030 are forecast, and the connectivity index is analyzed. The results showed that only under the ecological land protection scenario will forest and grassland increase, but the strong barrier effect is still brought about by urban expansion from the analysis of the structural connectivity. At the level of functional connectivity, we identified the important connecting patches and future change trends of species with different diffusion distances. In addition, we identified the key connecting patches (i.e., stepping stones) and changes and suggested giving priority to the protection of these patches. This method can be applied to other rapidly developing cities, and the conclusions can be used as a spatial explicit tool for urban green space and land use planning.
Article
Abstract The identification of conservation gaps through a systemic planning process allows for the design and evaluation of initiatives for determining conservation areas at different geographical scales. The purpose of this study was to determine the conservation gaps associated with threatened wildlife in Chimborazo, Ecuador. A documentary research was used including a systematic review of 26 geographic and bibliographic information sources on 10 wildlife variables, a multicriteria analysis in GIS using six criteria, the statistical analysis of independent variables using a Chi-square test, and the development of a correspondence analysis. The results showed that in Chimborazo province, 311 species of wildlife were registered, of which 13% are in a degree of threat. To mitigate the problems associated with the loss of wildlife, two strategies are required, mainly through the leadership and active participation of the 10 public sector actors. In addition, it was identified that the conservation gaps associated with threatened wildlife are mainly found in the “paramo” ecosystem and comprise an area of 143,302 ha, which corresponds to 22% of province's extension. This information should be used by the institutions related to the management of the natural resources of the province to deepen the studies on the ranges of distribution of species in threat category and promote actions that allow the conservation and sustainable use of the natural heritage from the province.
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The development of road networks over the years has caused serious damage to biodiversity. However, few studies have explored the impact of different road grades on ecological network connectivity, especially at multiple levels and at different dispersal distances. Here, we propose an analytical framework based on the integrated graph theory and the circuit theory method, in order to model the ecological network of virtual species, to evaluate connectivity at the landscape, patch, and corridor levels, and to identify the key patches and key corridors that contribute the most to the maintenance of connectivity. The empirical analysis in this study was performed on six scenarios, which were designed by successively integrating different road grades into the landscape. On this basis, the impact of different road grades on the connectivity, key patches, and key corridors in Wuhan, China, were explored. The results showed that: (1) High-grade roads have a significant impact on landscape-patch-corridor connectivity, while medium-grade roads have a similar degree of impact on patch-level connectivity as high-grade roads do. (2) Species with long dispersal ability (25 km) are susceptible to roads at the landscape and corridor levels; species with low and medium dispersal abilities (10, 15 and 20 km) are vulnerable to roads at the patch levels. (3) The importance of key patches and the resistance of key corridors are significantly increased by the influence of roads, while their spatial distribution changes slightly. This integrated framework contributes to an evaluation of the impacts of different grades road on ecological processes, so as to better provide targeted suggestions for biodiversity conservation and transportation planning.
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The European Union (EU) ensures the conservation of biodiversity through the Natura 2000 Network, which establishes the classification and selection of protected areas at European level. Unfortunately, member countries cannot make the best zoning decisions for biodiversity conservation because there are no clear and uniform parameters to designate Natura 2000 sites. Due to this, it is convenient to evaluate the importance of the criteria for biodiversity conservation through a general assessment, which could establish relevant criteria that can be analysed through geostatistical methods combined in multicriteria analysis. This paper aims to consider biodiversity importance values taking into account land use, so that it is possible to develop a zoning proposal which verifies or corrects the suitability of the designated areas for the Natura 2000 Network in Castilla y León, Andalucía and Madrid (Spain). The choice of these regions allows us to compare areas with a high variability of population density, making possible to compare the potential protected areas with respect to the population living in each area. This assessment has been performed using basic and easily adaptable criteria of biodiversity conservation, so it could be applied in other European territories. In this way, clear and uniform parameters for zoning will be used, being possible to detect the best protected areas. One of the most important purposes of the Natura 2000 Network is to increase connectivity between territories; our work proposes new areas that could be linked to currently protected territories, to favour the achievement of this purpose of the Natura 2000 Network.
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The connectivity of protected areas, such as the Natura 2000 network, is crucial for maintaining healthy ecosystems and for the delivery of ecosystem services into the wider landscapes in which they are embedded. We here present a novel combination of methods for connectivity analysis across heterogeneous landscapes, integrating graph-based analyses, least-cost path modelling and the Probability of Connectivity metric, and apply these methods to the network of Natura 2000 woodland sites in mainland Spain. We deliver key insights on the connectors between Natura 2000 sites: their location and width (including transboundary ones), their prioritization in conservation and restoration scenarios involving different land uses, and the bottlenecks (weak points due to land use pressures) found along them. Based on these results, we characterize the landscapes traversed by the connectors within and outside the protected sites to inform related land management decisions. We show that forests of public utility play a key role in sustaining Natura 2000 connectivity in Spain. They may qualify as an effective area-based conservation measure significantly contributing to the connectivity element of Aichi Target 11. Riparian forests were part of the identified connectors much more frequently than expected by their area. They stand out as a crucial green infrastructure safeguarding the connectivity of Natura 2000 woodland habitats, particularly when forest species need to traverse landscapes dominated by agricultural and artificial land uses. Natura 2000 sites have good connectivity conditions compared to unprotected lands. First, the identified woodland connectors preferentially traversed Natura 2000 lands. Second, the large majority of bottlenecks occurred outside Natura 2000. Natura 2000 sites cannot, however, be considered free from connectivity limitations; they still contained a significant number of bottlenecks that would need to be addressed in the site-level management plans. The priority connectors for conservation were preferentially found in the well-forested and well-protected landscapes in the main mountain ranges of Spain. On the contrary, the priority connectors for restoration traversed much more frequently landscapes dominated by agriculture. In these landscapes, connectivity improvements largely depend on the restoration of riparian forests and on measures that mitigate the intensification of agriculture by promoting landscape complexity and natural vegetation remnants. The remarkable spatial segregation found between the priority landscapes for connectivity conservation and those of priority for restoration highlights the need for an integrated perspective for land use planning and for the management of the Natura 2000 network in Europe.
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The European Union (EU), through its initiative Natura 2000, established the classification and selection of protected areas at European level in order to ensure biodiversity conservation. However, there are not clear and uniform parameters to enable member countries to make the best decisions of zoning for biodiversity conservation. For this reason, a methodology based on evaluation of criteria importance for biodiversity conservation is presented in this thesis. The introduced methodology aims to establish relevant criteria that can be analyzed through statistical method of multicriteria analysis and interpolation of data with the kriginggeostatistical method. The objective is to verify the suitability of areas designated for Natura 2000 network in Castilla y León, Spain and to develop a proposal for zoning based on biodiversity importance values in consideration of land use. The proposed methodology was performed with basic criteria of biodiversity conservation that can be adapted and applied in different EU member countries contributing to an optimal selection of protected areas with clear and uniform parameters for zoning.
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Connectivity is a vital element in landscape structure because of its importance in species-landscape interactions. Connectivity analysis of green spaces in urban landscapes, especially in high-density cities such as Hong Kong, differs from that of habitats in natural or rural landscapes. Using the human being as the target species, we formulated with GIS techniques a resistance weight, a structural connectivity index and an ecological barrier effect index to assess connectivity of green spaces. Two factors were included in the modeling, namely the resistance of different land uses related to human activities, and the distance between different urban green spaces. We analyzed the relationships between the connectivity index of green spaces and green cover, elevation, building density and population density. Our results indicate that low connectivity usually occurs in both old and new town centers with high building density and low green cover, and in areas occupied by land uses with a high resistance weight. However, urban density may not necessarily have a negative influence on the structural connectivity of green spaces. Green cover also may not necessarily have positive impact on connectivity if the green spaces have a poor spatial pattern. Adding more green stepping stones, large green spaces and green corridors to form greenways and shortening the distance between urban green spaces can offer a spatial-planning strategy to increase the green space connectivity in Hong Kong. The study provides insights to optimize connectivity of green spaces to improve the urban living environment in high-density metropolises.
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The increased availability of mapped environmental data calls for better tools to analyze the spatial characteristics and information contained in those maps. Publicly available, user-friendly and universal tools are needed to foster the interdisciplinary development and application of methodologies for the extraction of image object information properties contained in digital raster maps. That is the overarching goal of GuidosToolbox, which is a set of customized, thematically grouped raster image analysis methodologies provided in a graphical user interface and for all popular operating systems. The Toolbox contains a wide selection of dedicated algorithms and tools, which are complemented by batch-processing and pre- and post-processing routines, all designed to objectively describe and quantify various spatial properties of image objects in digital raster data. While first developed for the analysis of remote sensing data in environmental applications, the Toolbox now provides a generic framework that is applicable to image analysis at any scale and for any kind of digital raster data.
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Significance Following severe environmental degradation from rapid economic development, China is now advancing policies to secure biodiversity and ecosystem services. We report the first nationwide assessment, showing that protected areas (PAs) are not well delineated to protect either biodiversity or key ecosystem services. This serious deficiency exists in many countries. We propose creating a national park system in China to help guide development along a path of green growth, improving the well-being of both people and nature. This involves establishing new, strictly protected PAs for biodiversity and ecosystem services that are highly sensitive to human impacts, as well as a new PA category—in China and ideally worldwide—for integrating biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human activities to achieve sustainable development goals.
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Cambridge Core - Ecology and Conservation - Land Mosaics - by Richard T. T. Forman
Article
Connectivity loss has been identified as one of the greatest threats to biodiversity, at both the species and ecosystem levels. This study aims to find possible correlations between structural connectivity and faunal orichness and landscape diversity in Spain’s largest region, Castilla y León. Based on data provided by the National Biodiversity Inventory and the CORINE Land Cover land-use mapping for 2000 and 2006, species richness was characterized by the number of species occurring in a grid overlaid on the 10x10-km-territory. The Shannon Index for land uses was also calculated in each one of the grid cells, providing information on landscape diversity. Structural connectivity was studied using the Morphological Spatial Pattern Analysis, thus providing information on landscape diversity for different edge widths in two different habitat types. Lastly, the analyses showed that there is a slight relationship between structural connectivity and landscape diversity, but not between structural connectivity and faunal richness.
Article
Cantabrian capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus cantabricus) is listed as endangered according to IUCN criteria. The high degree of fragmentation and anthropogenic disturbances in capercaillie habitat suggests that habitat patterns may be related to decline of capercaillie populations in northern Spain. The objectives of this study are: (1) determining critical territories for the maintenance of capercaillie connectivity; and (2) evaluating the importance of public forests and their appropriate management to maintain the habitat connectivity for this species. This study is focused on northern Spain, where forest areas are critical for the maintenance of capercaillie. We applied connectivity methodologies based on morphological spatial pattern analysis (MSPA) and the probability of connectivity (PC). The results of the MSPA were incorporated into a standard GIS and compared with the spatial distribution of the public forest. Most of the valuable areas for connectivity were inside the public forests. Moreover, these public forests mainly form continuous features. Therefore, forest planning and management, mainly in public forest, should approach this problem including connectivity considerations and, more specifically, identifying the most critical forest sites for the maintenance of capercaillie habitat.