Modeling a Rapidly Urbanizing Regional Landscape to Assess Connectivity of Natural Integrity for Ecological Flows

By Michael Quinn, Pablo Pina Poujol, Mary-Ellen Tyler and Greg Chernoff.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 12, 2014 $US5.00

Multifunctional periurban landscapes generally constitute the most extensive interface between anthropogenic infrastructure and ecological infrastructure. Within such areas, resilience and sustainability of essential ecological flows are predicated on maintaining or enhancing connectivity among remnant natural areas. However, the establishment of built infrastructure and metropolitan growth‐related land use change often results in fragmentation, habitat loss, and threats to ecological goods and services at a regional scale. We employ a non‐species‐based approach to landscape connectivity to assess spatial patterns of relatively natural areas in a rapidly urbanizing, multifunctional, periurban landscape in western Canada for the purpose of regional land‐use planning. We conducted a GIS spatial analysis based on “human footprint” data applied to land cover. Land‐use types were weighted according to their assumed relative impact on ecological function and the inverse of this human use layer provided a spatial index of natural integrity. We calculated ecological connectivity as a continuous gradient of permeability based on percolation theory and least‐cost distance methods for network analysis. Our results identify compelling patterns of connectivity (flow) assessment for the surface of a regional landscape level. This information is being used in a transdisciplinary, applied research and practice partnership between researchers and regional planners to strategize spatial resilience and land use sustainability. The final maps represent a graphic ecological connectivity index for the region.

Keywords: Spaces, Flows, Environment, Sustainability, Connectivity, Ecological Infrastructure, Urbanization, Urban‐Rural Interface, Spatial Resilience

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 4, Issue 2, June 2014, pp.71-83. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 12, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 963.795KB)).

Dr. Michael Quinn

Director and Research Chair, Institute for Environmental Sustainability, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Dr. Pablo Pina Poujol

Post-doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Environmental Desing, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Dr. Mary-Ellen Tyler

Associate Professor, Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Greg Chernoff

Senior Research Associate, Miistakis Institute for the Rockies, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta, Canada