Although the concept of connectivity is decades old, it remains poorly understood and defined, and some argue that habitat quality and area should take precedence in conservation planning instead. However, fragmented landscapes are often characterized by linear features that are inherently connected, such as streams and hedgerows. For these, both representation and connectivity targets may be met with little effect on the cost, area, or quality of the reserve network. We assessed how connectivity approaches affect planning outcomes for linear habitat networks by using the stock-route network of Australia as a case study. With the objective of representing vegetation communities across the network at a minimal cost, we ran scenarios with a range of representation targets (10%, 30%, 50%, and 70%) and used 3 approaches to account for connectivity (boundary length modifier, Euclidean distance, and landscape-value [LV]). We found that decisions regarding the target and connectivity approach used affected the spatial allocation of reserve systems. At targets ≥50%, networks designed with the Euclidean distance and LV approaches consisted of a greater number of small reserves. Hence, by maximizing both representation and connectivity, these networks compromised on larger contiguous areas. However, targets this high are rarely used in real-world conservation planning. Approaches for incorporating connectivity into the planning of linear reserve networks that account for both the spatial arrangement of reserves and the characteristics of the intervening matrix highlight important sections that link the landscape and that may otherwise be overlooked.
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