Flows of organisms, energy, and matter in space are pivotal to maintain the many processes that ultimately underpin the persistence of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Such flows, typically termed ‘connectivity’, therefore play an important role in enabling managers to achieve spatial conservation goals. Yet, the implementation of connectivity in spatial conservation remains a research frontier because it remains difficult to define, quantify, and implement in conservation objectives.
Here, I will talk about different types of connectivity, including home range movement, ontogenetic movement, migration, propagule dispersal, land-sea flows, and recent gene flow, and how they are relevant and useful to spatial conservation. I will illustrate recent key advances in planning conservation area networks for different types of flows, with particular focus on a) home ranges; b) ontogenetic movement of sea turtles; c) marine larval dispersal; and, d) how the effects of global warming on marine larvae potentially propagate to altering effective conservation area networks.
Lastly, I will summarise the different approaches to incorporate connectivity into conservation decisions and introduce the new tool Marxan Connect that is about to make connectivity conservation planning accessible to everyone. Whilst concepts are applicable to any kind of connectivity, my work focusses on coral reef ecosystems – so the talk has a strong marine bias!