LANDSCAPE corridors are among the most important conservation strategies in the face of global changes such as habitat fragmentation, habitat destruction, and climate change. Corridors are habitats that are typically long relative to their width, and they connect fragmented patches of habitat. The main goal of corridors is to facilitate movement of individuals, through both dispersal and migration, so that genes can continuously be exchanged between different individuals and genetic diversity is maintained overall.
This is critical for the survival of species, especially as habitat fragmentation results in isolated animals or plants disconnected from the rest of the population. Corridors are able to provide a literal pathway, connecting these isolated individuals to the main group by making it easy for individuals to walk (or run or fly or glide or hop or blow in the wind) to other populated areas. By linking populations throughout the landscape instead of leaving behind islands of good habitat in a sea of bad habitat, there is a lower chance for extinction and greater support for species richness.
There are many examples of corridors. Corridors can exist naturally, such as streams and stream banks linking isolated wetlands. The endangered St. Francis’ satyr butterfly, on Ft. Bragg in North Carolina, uses stream corridors to fly between ephemeral wetlands created by abandoned beaver ponds. Corridors can also be constructed through management practices, such as efforts to link national parks in Turkey and protect species such as the Caucasian lynx, brown bear, and Anatolian leopard. They can be artificially constructed, such as overpasses or underpasses on highways, for the sole purpose of funneling animals or plants away from anthropogenic threat. Banff National Park in Canada has been a leader in constructing corridors around highways, and has seen them used by numerous large mammals including grizzly bears, wolves, moose, elk and deer. Corridors can be large, as is typical in large mountain ranges, or small, as is typical in urban landscapes.
While recent years have seen a growth of scientific research on corridors, there is still a gap between what ecologists know about the science of corridors and its practical application in conservation management. In an effort to bridge this gap, we have developed a new website, ConservationCorridor.org. This website it based out of North Carolina State University, and is hosted by a team of scientists there with extensive experience in corridor planning and research. Much of the content of the site is contributed by others outside of North Carolina State University, including managers, researchers, and students who all have some expertise in their field. We encourage interaction among interested individuals and welcome contributions from anyone.
The aim of ConservationCorridor.org is to act as a portal for all things corridor related, from providing up-to-date news and recent scientific publications, to directing scientists and managers alike towards online tools for planning corridors. We summarize current information from the science community in short digests that are written by a wide range of experts in their field. We also provide practical information such as a glossary of terms, an extensive library of publications, general facts about corridors, and links to other websites that pertain to corridor research.
Many examples of corridors already exist, as we highlight on the website. Large scale initiatives, such as the Florida Wildlife Corridor and Jaguar Corridor Initiative in Central and South America, aim to support the movement of large predators, and in the process conserve high levels of diversity throughout their regions. Experimental corridors, such as Savannah River Site in South Carolina, provide a wealth of scientific data showing specifically how corridors affect species’ behavior and movement. Man-made corridors, such as the well-publicized overpasses constructed in Banff National Park in Canada, have returned freedom of movement for many species through an otherwise fragmented and human-dominated landscape.
Recent advances in the science of corridors are contributing greatly to corridor implementation and management. For example, new corridors being created in both Brazil and Turkey promise to support a diversity of local wildlife in areas that have been highly fragmented. Climate change has accelerated research into how connectivity might facilitate on animal dispersal and species range expansion. Other current issues in corridor research include dam removal along stream corridors, international conservation efforts to create wildlife corridor plans, and new methods for assessing connectivity such as hormonal assays.
Some concerns have been expressed by scientists about the potential for corridors to do more harm than good, and they include questions over negative edge effects, increased predation rates and the spread of invasive species. In general, these concerns are not strongly supported in the scientific literature. Overall, corridors provide a large-scale solution to keeping habitat and therefore populations linked. With the launch of ConservationCorridor.org, we hope that this website will allow all people interested in corridors, from the scientific theory behind them to the details of implementing them in the landscape, to have access to the most current information available and use it to maintain connectivity throughout the landscape.
If you are interested in contributing to our website by writing a Digest, or have suggestions for future Digests, please contact us at corridor@ConservationCorridor.org.
More about corridors on Ecotone:
- Landscape connectivity: corridors and more, in Issues in Ecology #16 by Liza Lester, 19 Oct 2012.
- Habitat corridors help preserve wildlife in the midst of human society by Terrence Houston, 2 Aug 2011.