The road you take to work every day is a corridor – it allows you to get from one place to another. Wildlife corridors are like roads for animals, helping them travel between the places they need to go.
Organisms depend on their specific habitat for survival. When large amounts of habitat are lost, this reduces populations and important resources that are available, threatening the survival of the species that live there.Sometimes habitats are not lost completely, but instead become fragmented. Fragmented habitats were once contiguous, but are now broken into several smaller pieces and are no longer connected.
Fragmentation can cause problems because it can separate individuals within a population, as well as separate them from important resources. Habitat fragmentation is usually caused by human activities and structures, such as roads, logging, and other development.A wildlife corridor is a way of connecting these fragmented habitats. The corridor allows movement between isolated patches of habitat without other disturbances, such as traffic or development.
Wildlife corridors may be natural or artificial. Natural corridors are usually thin strips or a series of small clumps of high-quality habitat that connect the isolated patches.
For example, birds often use waterways as migration routes because these provide valuable habitats and resources. These waterways may be river corridors and coastlines.Artificial corridors are generally constructed where there is a lot of human activity. ‘Land bridges’ or underground tunnels are artificial wildlife corridors that provide a safe way for animals (such as deer, squirrels, bears, and foxes) to cross a road throughout the day.
Corridors don’t just help animals that move between isolated patches on a daily basis, but also those that migrate between habitats seasonally. In some European countries, tunnels have been constructed to allow frogs, toads, and salamanders to cross roads and make it safely to the places they breed.
As helpful as wildlife corridors are, they can also be harmful. A wildlife corridor may spread diseases between small populations that travel between habitat patches. Also, not all animals look for a specific path between habitat patches. They may not find the corridor or see it as a safe travel route.
To minimize the likelihood of this, it is important for the developers of the corridor to understand how their target species moves and what it needs to go from one habitat to another.
The effects of wildlife corridors between fragmented or isolated habitat patches are not fully understood. Researchers continue to study both the benefits and harm that these connections can provide to populations. And while construction of natural corridors can be beneficial, it is also important to be aware of and protect natural corridors that currently exist.
Once you are done, you should be able to:
- Explain the need for wildlife corridors
- Discuss the positive and negative effects of wildlife corridors for local wildlife