Do flying beetles respond to human-dominated landscapes as complex mosaics or binary patterns?
Understanding and measuring functional connectivity for animals with habitats that have been fragmented by human activity requires that the biology and movement of the species be considered. We used least cost paths in GIS to test hypotheses regarding how different species of longhorned beetles likely connect habitats with dispersal. We predicted that there would be differences in the functional connectivity of landscapes depending on species larval niche breadth, adult feeding habits, and the potential for use of non-forest habitats. For the species with very specialized larvae, we developed a classification tree to determine areas likely to contain the appropriate species of host tree. Connectivity calculated using least cost paths did not out-perform Euclidean distances for three generalist beetles. This was also the case for the specialist beetle species when all forest was considered habitat. However, when we delineated habitat based on areas likely to support the host tree the functional connectivity incorporating least cost paths was a much better predictor than that using Euclidean distances. Generalists may respond to fragmented habitat in a binary habitat-matrix way while more specialized species may respond to a mosaic. These trends are obscured if habitat is defined by human perceptions rather than species biology.