Preserve Habitat Connectivity
Habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation is a leading threat to the nation’s fish and wildlife resources. As a result, preserving habitat connectivity has become an important conservation priority.
How Does Climate Change Increase the Importance of Habitat connectivity?
Rising temperatures and changing climatic conditions are already causing some species — plants and animals — to push their established ranges further north or into higher elevation areas. For example, the Forest Service's Northeastern Research Station published a study suggesting many tree species are already shifting their ranges further north and to higher elevations. Habitat connectivity facilitates this process, allowing animals to seek out new territory or escape newly-invading predators or competitors.
Numerous Efforts Are Already Underway to Preserve Habitat Connectivity
The protection of habitat connectivity, often through buffer zones or wildlife corridors, is a conservation priority. For example, the Western Governor’s Association has established a Wildlife Corridors Initiative to help protect the region’s fish and wildlife from the impacts of climate change, energy development, transportation and other forms of habitat loss or degradation.
How Can Land Trusts Help Preserve Habitat Connectivity?
As climate change compels more species to shift their ranges, land trusts may wish to consider facilitating these population migrations by:
- extending the reach of current protected areas to incorporate potential new habitat,
- making landscape connectivity a priority when considering new parcels,
- working with local organizations, governments and NGOs to protect habitat that links existing protected areas, thereby establishing wildlife corridors.
Learn more about protecting habitat connectivity:
- Habitat Connectivity and Ecosystem Productivity: Implications from a Simple Model. USGS
- Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group: The Importance of Habitat Connectivity, and additional resources
- Prioritizing Habitat Connectivity: An example from the Big Sur Land Trust
- Assess habitat connectivity on your lands with NOAA's Habitat Priority Planner or other GIS-based mapping tools.