Do habitat corridors provide connectivity?

Paul Beier, Reed F. Noss

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

700 Scopus citations

Abstract

Skeptics have questioned the empirical evidence that corridors provide landscape connectivity. Some also have suggested dangers of corridors. We reviewed published studies that empirically addressed whether corridors enhance or diminish the population viability of species in habitat patches connected by corridors. A randomized and replicated experimental design has not been used-and we argue is not required-to make inferences about the conservation value of corridors. Rather, studies can use observational or experimental analyses of parameters of target populations or movements of individual animals. Two of these approaches hold the greatest promise for progress, especially if the shortcomings of previous studies are remedied. First, experiments using demographic parameters as dependent variables-even if unreplicated-can demonstrate the demographic effects of particular corridors in particular landscapes. Such studies should measure demographic traits before and after treatment in both the treated area (corridor created or destroyed) and an untreated area (habitat patches isolated from one another). This approach is superior to observing the demographic conditions in various landscapes because of the tendency for corridor presence to be correlated with other variables, such as patch size, that can confound the analysis. Second, observations of movements by naturally dispersing animals in fragmented landscapes can demonstrate the conservation value of corridors more convincingly than can controlled experiments on animal movement. Such field observations relate directly to the type of animals (e.g., dispersing juveniles of target species) and the real landscapes that are the subject of decisions about corridor preservation. Future observational studies of animal movements should attempt to detect extra-corridor movements and focus on fragmentation-sensitive species for which corridors are likely to be proposed. Fewer than half of the 32 studies we reviewed provided persuasive data regarding the utility of corridors; other studies were inconclusive, largely due to design flaws. The evidence from well-designed studies suggests that corridors are valuable conservation tools. Those who would destroy the last remnants of natural connectivity should bear the burden of proving that corridor destruction will not harm target populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1241-1252
Number of pages12
JournalConservation Biology
Volume12
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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