Connectivity for conservation: a framework to classify network measures



Graph theory, network theory, and circuit theory are increasingly being used to quantify multiple aspects of habitat connectivity and protected areas. There has been an explosive proliferation of network (connectivity) measures, resulting in over 60 measures for ecologists to now choose from. Conceptual clarification on the ecological meaning of these network measures and their interrelationships is overdue. We present a framework that categorizes network measures based on the connectivity property that they quantify (i.e., route-specific flux, route redundancy, route vulnerability, and connected habitat area) and the structural level of the habitat network to which they apply. The framework reveals a lack of network measures in the categories of “route-specific flux among neighboring habitat patches” and “route redundancy at the level of network components.” We propose that network motif and path redundancy measures can be developed to fill the gaps in these categories. The value of this framework lies in its ability to inform the selection and application of network measures. Ultimately, it will allow a better comparison among graph, network, and circuit analyses, which will improve the design and management of connected landscapes.