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Evaluating connectivity and ecological linkages between Perth’s protected areas to support biodiversity

O'Donnell (née Chambers), Christina (2020) Evaluating connectivity and ecological linkages between Perth’s protected areas to support biodiversity. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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While protected areas in urban environments provide island refuges for species survival within a hostile urban matrix, linkages between them are necessary to sustain biodiversity. This is especially important for cities such as Perth situated in Western Australia’s global ‘biodiversity hotspot’, where there is high species richness with many now endangered. This research estimated the degree of connectivity for ‘formal’ and ‘semi-formal’ protected area networks of the Perth and Peel region of WA. Four metrics providing alternative patch and landscape level perspectives were used to estimate and validate the degree of connectivity. Least-cost path modelling was then used to identify effective placement of ecological linkages for species of different dispersal capabilities, testing a range of ecological distance thresholds (EDT) between 50-1500m. Connectivity between protected areas within the region was low. For example, connectivity for species with an EDT of 1500m, such as the threatened Calyptorhynchus latirostris, was at ~0.0005 (range 0-1) for formally protected areas, increasing to 0.0016 when ‘semi-formal’ areas were included, and much lower for lower EDTs. The importance of ‘semi-formal’ areas (especially Bush Forever sites) in connectivity was further highlighted with the number of isolated protected areas dropping from 50% to 25% at 50m EDT and the number of protected areas within the largest linked network increasing from ~25% to ~80% at 1000m EDT, when they were included. This lack of connectivity highlights the need of biodiversity conservation planning decisions to be based on ecological information that enhances species movement. The least-cost path modelling identified routes of potential ecological linkages between protected areas through the urban matrix. Analysis of these detailed maps highlighted a suite of strategies to enhance connectivity, including where to break barriers to movement, enhance green spaces, and provide protection for native vegetation. This provides a resource to enable land managers and planners to make appropriate biodiversity conservation actions.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Environmental and Conservation Sciences
Supervisor(s): Andrew, Margaret, Chambers, Jane and Zelinova, Renata
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