Baum, K. A., K. J. Haynes, F. P. Dillemuth and J. T. Cronin. 2004. The matrix enhances the effectiveness of corridors and stepping stones. Ecology 85: 2671-2676.


Habitat fragmentation, modification, and loss pose the most significant threats to the structure and persistence of animal populations and communities. Isolated patches of native habitat often support small populations that receive little or no immigration, increasing the probability of extinction. Corridors and stepping stones have been proposed as strategies to increase the connectivity of fragmented landscapes. If the matrix, or habitat between patches, is readily dispersed through by organisms (a low-resistance matrix), connectivity among patches may also be increased. However, the influence of the matrix on the efficacy of corridors and stepping stones has never been evaluated. In an experimental prairie landscape, we show that a low-resistance (grass) matrix increased the efficacy of corridors and stepping stones by an average of 180% compared to a high resistance (bare ground) matrix and that stepping stones only significantly improved connectivity when embedded in a low resistance (grass) matrix. Thus, the effectiveness of corridors and stepping stones depended on the matrix. Matrix structure is an integral component of landscapes and should be considered in strategies designed to increase connectivity among fragmented populations.

Keywords: conservation biology, matrix, dispersal, emigration, mark-recapture, planthoppers, Prokelisia, Spartina pectinata, tall-grass prairie

View or print this publication