Military and non-military land-use demands can adversely affect habitat connectivity for endangered and at-risk animal populations on military installations and surrounding landscapes. Protecting and recovering these species on Department of Defense (DoD) lands likely requires not only the protection of primary habitats, but also adequate management of habitats that promote dispersal between habitat patches.

The objectives of this project were to (1) understand dispersal patterns of four endangered or at-risk animal species on Fort Bragg, North Carolina—the red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW), Saint-Francis satyr (SFS), and two at-risk amphibians; (2) model and map the connectivity of landscapes on and around Fort Bragg for the study animals; (3) evaluate the ability of the RCW to serve as a surrogate to guide management of landscape connectivity for multiple species; and (4) develop a modeling strategy and spatial decision support system that will enable wildlife managers to examine the influence of habitat management practices on connectivity.

Technical Approach

A simulation modeling approach was used to achieve these objectives. First, movement data on each target species was collected using a combination of experimental and observational techniques. These movement data were synthesized into general rules that describe how landscape features influence dispersal. The features were then mapped across the study area using remote sensing data and ground-based inventories. These empirical data allowed researchers to parameterize and validate dispersal simulations for each of the target species and use those models to predict the relative importance of dispersal habitat use for each species across the study extent. A reserve-design algorithm was then used to find the most important dispersal habitats across all of the target species and evaluate RCW’s ability to serve as a suitable management surrogate for the others.


The target species differ drastically in their overall dispersal ability. RCW populations are highly connected on Fort Bragg, but are less connected in the surrounding landscape. The other target species have limited dispersal ability, and dispersal of these species from known populations off of the installation itself is probably rare. Small areas near current populations of SFS and amphibians are also important dispersal habitats for RCWs, but overall the patterns of dispersal habitat use are widely divergent across species. On private lands, conservation strategies intended to preserve or improve connectivity for RCWs will only benefit other species if the areas conserved are extensive.

To access end-user products developed through this research, please visit the Listed and At-Risk Species section on the RC Tools and Training page.


This new knowledge about habitat connectivity for the target species can be used by DoD to manage its populations more effectively. The multispecies connectivity evaluation framework may be generally useful in guiding habitat management for DoD installations that harbor multiple species of conservation concern. The GIS toolbox that was developed, called “CONNECT”, will enable DoD wildlife managers and others to model connectivity for a variety of species, evaluate the effects of multiple habitat management options on connectivity, and prioritize lands for connectivity across multiple species.