The function of plantation forestry in landscape connectivity
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Plantation forestry has been widely used for industrial purposes, creating vast extensions of culture forests. Although these plantations have a primary economic goal, they may indirectly serve other functions, such as landscape connectivity. Eucalypts are among the main plantation species used worldwide. In those areas in which they are not native, eucalyptus have been regarded as pernicious species for autochthonous forest and forest dwelling fauna. However, they may enhance connectivity between natural forest patches, thus favouring faunal dispersal. In Cantabria (Spain), Eucalyptus globulus were extensively planted in deforested areas mainly occupied by bushes and meadows. Here, we examine whether their massive introduction has modified landscape connectivity in the region. We used two indices based on graph theory and on the habitat availability concept (Integral Index of Connectivity and Probability of Connectivity), and applied them to the current forest network. Our results show how eucalyptus afforestation, principally based on temporary woodlands, has not improved forest connectivity in Cantabria significantly, though in the coast some of the new plantation areas may be locally important. Specific management actions targeted at these particularly relevant patches may enhance faunal dispersal and thus maintain biodiversity by reducing the fragmentation of these highly humanized areas.
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