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Am Nat. 2008 May;171(5):610-9. doi: 10.1086/587070.

An empirical test of a diffusion model: predicting clouded apollo movements in a novel environment.

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  • 1Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 65, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland.


Functional connectivity is a fundamental concept in conservation biology because it sets the level of migration and gene flow among local populations. However, functional connectivity is difficult to measure, largely because it is hard to acquire and analyze movement data from heterogeneous landscapes. Here we apply a Bayesian state-space framework to parameterize a diffusion-based movement model using capture-recapture data on the endangered clouded apollo butterfly. We test whether the model is able to disentangle the inherent movement behavior of the species from landscape structure and sampling artifacts, which is a necessity if the model is to be used to examine how movements depend on landscape structure. We show that this is the case by demonstrating that the model, parameterized with data from a reference landscape, correctly predicts movements in a structurally different landscape. In particular, the model helps to explain why a movement corridor that was constructed as a management measure failed to increase movement among local populations. We illustrate how the parameterized model can be used to derive biologically relevant measures of functional connectivity, thus linking movement data with models of spatial population dynamics.

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