Landscape Corridors Help Connect Habitat
Helping to mitigate the fragmentation that can occur through development, strips of land connecting separated areas of similar habitat have been found to be an effective way of promoting the movement of native animals and the plants they eat, according to a study released on June 30 by a North Carolina State University zoologist and his colleagues from the University of Florida and Allegheny College.
Dr. Nick Haddad, an associate professor of zoology at N.C. State and a co-author of the paper, said that the landscape corridors essentially reconnect habitat that is disconnected by urban or farm development.
When animals and plants are unable to move across their wider habitat, he said, they risk becoming lost or developing genetic defects associated with small populations.
The corridors were tested at the Savannah River Site National Environmental Research Park, a federally protected area on the South Carolina-Georgia border dominated by pine tree forests.
The researchers established eight similar sites. Each site included five areas that were cleared of trees. The central patch was connected to one other patch by a 150-meter long, 25-meter wide corridor, while three other patches were isolated from the central patch, and themselves, by forest.
The study found that eastern bluebirds, one of the main dispersers of seeds in South Carolina, were 31% more likely to be found in the center of connected patches than the center of unconnected patches. And seeds from myrtle plants, which are found in bird droppings, were 37% more likely to be found in traps in the center of connected patches than in traps in the center of unconnected patches.
Easily measured animal behaviors can help predict if landscape corridors will be effective for specific animals and plants, the study found.