Patterns and Processes of Fragmentation Near Konza Prairie LTER

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Tom Prebyl
John Harrington, Jr.
Milan Shrestha
Sainan Zhang

Fragmentation of natural habitats, driven by urban growth and other land use modifications, acts to decrease the amount of core habitat as well as the connectivity among core areas. As a result, landscape fragmentation can have negative impacts on the ecological communities, ecosystem services, and metapopulation dynamics. As part of a cross-site comparative study involving several LTER sites (Central Arizona-Phoenix, Sevilleta, Jornada Basin, Shortgrass Steppe, and Konza), we assessed the patterns and processes of land fragmentation in the Northern Flint Hills region associated with the Konza Prairie LTER site. Specifically, our study examined the patterns of fragmentation associated with the growth of a nearby metropolitan area and sought to understand how socioecological factors drove the observed fragmentation patterns.

The collaborative study conducted fragmentation analyses using the 1992 and 2001 NLCD data sets. Given local concerns regarding the comparability of the two NLCD data sets, we did additional analysis for the Konza area using two time periods of the Kansas Land Cover Patterns datasets from 1990 and 2005. We reclassified all datasets into seven categories: developed-urban, developed-rural, cropland, grassland, forest, undeveloped, and water. To quantify changes in fragmentation we used Fragstats 3.3 to calculate several landscape ecology metrics that targeted changes in the amount, shape, and distribution of land cover classes in our study area. In a second analysis we modeled connectivity across our study area using Circuitscape, a software program that utilizes electrical circuit theory to identify all possible corridors of connectivity in a given landscape. Results from the Konza site are an important addition to the cross-site study in that they exemplify how urban growth can fragment natural habitats, even when occurring in comparatively lightly populated regions with moderate urban growth.

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