Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: South Carolina
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Buchholtz, E. K., O’Donnell, M. S., Heinrichs, J. A., & Aldridge, C. L. (2023). Temporal Patterns of Structural Sagebrush Connectivity from 1985 to 2020. Land, 12(6), 1176.


The sagebrush biome within the western United States has been reshaped by disturbances, management, and changing environmental conditions. As a result, sagebrush cover and configuration have varied over space and time, influencing processes and species that rely on contiguous, connected sagebrush. Previous studies have documented changes in sagebrush cover, but we know little about how the connectivity of sagebrush has changed over time and across the sagebrush biome. We investigated temporal connectivity patterns for sagebrush using a time series (1985-2020) of fractional sagebrush cover and used an omnidirectional circuit algorithm to assess the density of connections among areas with abundant sagebrush. By comparing connectivity patterns over time, we found that most of the biome experienced moderate change; the amount and type of change varied spatially, indicating that areas differ in the trend direction and magnitude of change. Two different types of designated areas of conservation and management interest had relatively high proportions of stable, high-connectivity patterns over time and stable connectivity trends on average. These results provide ecological information on sagebrush connectivity persistence across spatial and temporal scales that can support targeted actions to address changing structural connectivity and to maintain functioning, connected ecosystems.