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Kramer-Schadt, S.; Kaiser, T.S.; Frank, K.; Wiegand, T.
Analyzing the effect of stepping stones on target patch colonisation in structured landscapes for Eurasian lynx
2011  Landscape Ecology (26): 501-513

With habitat loss and fragmentation having become two of the major threats to the viability of species, the question of how to manage landscapes for species conservation has attracted much attention. In this context, the planning of stepping stones has been proposed to increase connectivity in fragmented landscapes. We present a simulation study with a neutral landscape approach to assess the effects of stepping stones on colonization success. To that end, we used a spatially explicit, calibrated population model of the European lynx (_Lynx lynx_) coupled with structured landscapes, in which we could control the landscape parameters of dispersal habitat coverage and contagion, as well as the number and size of stepping stones available for breeding. In general, we found that colonization success increased with increasing habitat coverage but decreased with increasing habitat contagion, while the introduction of stepping stones had significant effects in critical situations. Especially at low to medium dispersal habitat coverage and high disperser mortality, stepping stones had a positive effect on colonization success when they were large enough to produce new dispersers, but negative effects when they were small and located in a way that dispersers would be distracted from more suitable breeding habitat patches. The latter clearly constituted a shading effect and argues for a thorough consideration of the trade-offs related to stepping stone size and location when implementing stepping stones as a conservation measure, especially when the number of individuals of conservation concern is low.

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