A JFSP Fire Science Exchange Network
Bringing People Together & Sharing Knowledge in the Northern Rockies

Integrating functional connectivity and fire management for better conservation outcomes

Author(s): Holly Sitters, Julian Di Stefano
Year Published: 2020

Globally, the mean abundance of terrestrial animals has fallen by 50% since 1970, and populations face ongoing threats associated with habitat loss, fragmentation, climate change and disturbance. Climate change can influence the quality of remaining habitat directly, and indirectly by precipitating increases in the extent, frequency and severity of natural disturbances such as fire. Species are confronted with the combined threats of habitat clearance, changing climates and altered disturbance regimes, each of which may interact and have cascading impacts on animal populations. Typically, conservation agencies are limited in their capacity to mitigate rates of habitat clearance, fragmentation or climate change, yet fire management is increasingly used worldwide to reduce wildfire risk and achieve conservation outcomes. A popular approach to ecological fire management involves the creation of fire mosaics to promote animal diversity; however, this strategy has two fundamental limitations: (1) the effect of fire on animal movement within or among habitat patches is not considered; and (2) the implications of the current fire regime for long term population persistence are overlooked. Spatial and temporal patterns in fire history can influence animal movement, which is essential to the survival of individual animals, the maintenance of genetic diversity, and the persistence of populations, species and ecosystems. We argue that there is rich potential for fire managers to manipulate animal movement patterns, enhance functional connectivity, gene flow and genetic diversity, and increase the capacity of populations to persist under shifting environmental conditions. We describe a suite of recent methodological advances, including spatio‐temporal connectivity modeling, spatially‐explicit individual‐based simulation, and fire‐regime modeling, and explain how these tools can be integrated to achieve better outcomes for biodiversity in human‐modified, fire‐prone landscapes.

Citation: Sitters, Holly; Di Stefano, Julian. 2020. Integrating functional connectivity and fire management for better conservation outcomes. Conservation Biology 34(3):550-560. https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13446
Topic(s): Fire Ecology, Fire Effects, Fire & Climate, Management Approaches
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 21516
FRAMES RCS number: 60421
Record updated: Jul 8, 2020