Biodiversity conservation in dynamic landscapes: trade-offs between number, connectivity and turnover of habitat patches.
Many species are adapted to landscapes with characteristic dynamics generated by ongoing habitat destruction and creation. Climate change and human land use, however, may change the dynamics of these landscapes. Studies have repeatedly shown that many species are not able to cope with such changes in landscape dynamics. Conservation policies must, therefore, explicitly address this threat. The way in which management should be modified when formerly static landscapes become dynamic or when landscape dynamics change is unclear. Using an analytical formula for the rapid assessment of metapopulation lifetime in dynamic landscapes, we investigate if and how changes in one landscape attribute may be compensated by changes in another attribute to maintain species viability. We study such trade-offs considering both spatial (number, connectivity of patches) and temporal (patch destruction and creation rates) landscape attributes. We show that increasing patch destruction can be compensated to a certain extent by improvements in other spatial and/or temporal landscape attributes. Focusing on trade-offs between management options reveals two key factors essential for management decisions: First, the trade-offs are generally nonlinear irrespective of considering spatial or temporal landscape attributes. Secondly, species can be grouped according to their response to particular management options. Synthesis and applications. We demonstrate the usefulness of an analytical formula for calculating trade-offs between landscape attributes for a variety of landscapes and species. Two practical and robust management recommendations can be derived: (i) The nonlinearity of trade-offs implies that the effectiveness of conservation measures depends explicitly on the current level of landscape attributes. It must, therefore, be taken into account in conservation decision making. In particular, the existing level of patch turnover is decisive: if it is already high, improvements in other landscape attributes are ineffective in maintaining species viability. Thus, monitoring the current level of landscape attributes is indispensable for effective biodiversity conservation. (ii) Compensation of increased patch destruction by increased patch creation is only suitable for species with high dispersal propensity adapted to variable environments (aside from habitat patch turnover). This implies that conservation policies which rely on such compensation, like offsetting and conservation banking, are feasible only for this type of species.