Informing Strategic Efforts to Expand and Connect Protected Areas Using a Model of Ecological Flow, with Application to the Western United States

Brett G Dickson, Christine M. Albano, Brad H. Mcrae, Jesse J. Anderson, David M. Theobald, Luke J. Zachmann, Thomas D Sisk, Michael P. Dombeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


Under rapid landscape change, there is a significant need to expand and connect protected areas (PAs) to prevent further loss of biodiversity and preserve ecological functions across broad geographies. We used a model of landscape resistance and electronic circuit theory to estimate patterns of ecological flow among existing PAs in the western United States. We applied these results to areas previously identified as having high conservation value to distinguish those best positioned to maintain and enhance ecological connectivity and integrity. We found that current flow centrality was highest and effective resistance lowest in areas that spanned the border between southern Oregon and Idaho, and in northern Arizona and central Utah. Compared to other federal jurisdictions, Bureau of Land Management lands contributed most to ecological connectivity, forming "connective tissue" among existing PAs. Our models and maps can inform new conservation strategies and critical land allocation decisions, within or among jurisdictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalConservation Letters
StateAccepted/In press - 2016



  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Centrality
  • Connectivity
  • Conservation planning
  • Ecological flow
  • Effective resistance
  • Protected areas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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