Spatiotemporal dynamics of prairie wetland networks: Power-law scaling and implications for conservation planning

Christopher K. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Although habitat networks show promise for conservation planning at regional scales, their spatiotemporal dynamics have not been well studied, especially in climatesensitive landscapes. Here I use satellite remote sensing to compile wetland habitat networks from the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) of North America. An ensemble of networks assembled across a hydrologie gradient from deluge to drought and a range of representative dispersal distances exhibits power-law scaling of important topological parameters. Prairie wetland networks are "meso-worlds" with mean topological distance increasing faster with network size than small-world networks, but slower than a regular lattice (or "large world"). This scaling implies rapid dispersal through wetland networks without some of the risks associated with "small worlds" (e.g., extremely rapid propagation of disease or disturbance). Retrospective analysis of wetland networks establishes a climatic envelope for landscape connectivity in the PPR, where I show that a changing climate might severely impact metapopulation viability and restrict long-distance dispersal and range shifts. More generally, this study demonstrates an efficient approach to conservation planning at a level of abstraction addressing key drivers of the global biodiversity crisis: habitat fragmentation and climatic change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1924-1930
Number of pages7
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2010

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2010 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Climate change
  • Complex networks
  • Conservation planning
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Powerlaw scaling
  • Prairie pothole region
  • Wetlands


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