The fragmentation of ecosystems ranks near the top of contemporary conservation’s most critical issues and threatens the biodiversity of species and their habitats in ways few other conservation challenges have.
Recognizing the need to conserve biodiversity of a region by providing corridors and linkages that maintain ecosystem function is, in its broadest sense, the aim of landscape connectivity. While connectivity at a landscape scale addresses and facilitates the movement of multiple species of plants and animals between patches of large intact natural lands, wildlife corridors address the requirements for the movement of specific animals or species within landscapes. Given their crucial role in species and population health, the identification and conservation of landscape connectivity and wildlife corridors are moving rapidly from theoretical models and broad-based mapping efforts to specific guidance and real world, on-the-ground conservation actions. Researchers and managers now have access to new, powerful technologies that allow the collection of location data through GPS collars which can identify when and where animals are at regular intervals. Even with these new tools, however, a lack of understanding on how to maintain functional corridors and movement routes, antiquated approaches to land management, and emerging threats from climate change have resulted in the misalignment of resources and increased risk from detrimental impacts to these important landscapes.
Like our knowledge and technology, land management policies at local, state and federal levels have also been rapidly evolving. If these new policies are carefully constructed and are aligned with the best available science, they can open up opportunities to support on-the-ground work to maintain connectivity and corridors with funding, authorization where needed, and compilation of the relevant science. However, new information on landscape connections and movement routes often cannot inform policy making fast enough to ensure the correct conservation measures are applied to maintain function. From recent management and policy related to reptiles, birds, and big game, the science of landscape connections and wildlife movement conservation has many examples to learn from and help guide future policy and management.
In this session, participants will have the opportunity to hear from scientists, practitioners, and policy makers on how this new focus is bringing together data, technology and experience to advance this critical area of wildlife conservation in policy and practice.
Session Co-Chairs: Miles Moretti, President/CEO, Mule Deer Foundation; Steve Belinda, Executive Director, North American Grouse Partnership; John Kanter, Senior Wildlife Biologist, National Wildlife Federation