An overview of computational tools for preparing, constructing and using resistance surfaces in connectivity research - Landscape Ecology
Context Connectivity between habitat patches is a recognized conservation action to conserve biodiversity in a rapidly changing world. Resistance surfaces, a spatial representation of cost of movement across the landscape, are often the foundation for connectivity analyses but working with them can be daunting due to the diversity and complexity of software tools. Objectives We present an overview of the steps involved when working with resistance surfaces, identify tools that perform specific tasks, evaluate user experience with the tools, identify needs of the user community, and present some recommendations for users and developers. Methods We identified tools applicable at each of the three steps (i) preparing data, (ii) constructing and optimizing surfaces, and (iii) using resistance surfaces. We conducted an online survey of the connectivity user community to assess the popularity and experience with tools on five criteria and identified characteristics important in the selection of connectivity tools. Results We reviewed a total of 43 tools, of which 10 are useful for data preparation, 27 allow construction, and 30 tools that use resistance surfaces. A total of 148 survey participants working in 40 countries were familiar with 37 tools. Tools are ranked heterogeneously for the five criteria. Crucial avenues for future development of connectivity tools identified by respondents are incorporation of uncertainties, dynamic connectivity modelling, and automated parameter optimization. Conclusions Since resistance surfaces are used for a variety of applications, it is important that users are aware about the appropriate tools. We anticipate that future tools for connectivity research will incorporate more complex and biologically more realistic analytical approaches.