Wildlife Corridor Lab Project
The purpose of this project is raise awareness of the benefits of wildlife corridors. I will go through various steps in designing a mock wildlife corridor, as well as, thoroughly describe what a wildlife corridor is.
A wildlife corridor (also known as a landscape linkage) is a strip of land which connects two natural habitats when they have been separated due to road placement, urbanization, or other reasons. Roads and urbanization separate habitats and create habitat fragmentation in natural ecosystems throughout various temporal circumstances. Habitat fragmentation essentially lessens the amount of natural habitat in which animals can thrive, and thus, highly lessens diversity amongst various species. In an extreme cases, it could lead to areas of complete abiotic habitats. While wildlife corridors do not act as mitigation for a loss of core habitat, they allow species to roam freely through what natural habitat still remains; allowing for genetic interchange, thus, limiting the potential for inbreeding among species. The following is my personal design of a wildlife corridor.
http://niche-canada.org/files/images/img_1172_0.preview.jpg accessed 4/14/12
Step 1: Areas Intended to be Connected
My wildlife corridor is intended to connect two prominent natural forest habitats, whose wildlife populations have been separated and extirpated due to paved roads and interstates. Many paved roads have separated wildlife habitats, most notably busy interstates and highways. The two habitats that I would like to aim at connecting would be within the Coconino National Forest. The busy interstate I 17, cuts directly through the Coconino National Forest, separating this dense habitat. This interstate, coupled with various other roads throughout the area, could potentially result in habitat fragmentation in the future. Not to mention that such a busy interstate within this natural habitat is not only putting animals in danger of being hit while trying to cross the road, but also puts us at risk of hitting wildlife while driving our vehicles; putting both us and the Coconino wildlife in potentially fatal situations. With a goal of reducing dangerous circumstances and, moreover, allowing passage ways for wildlife throughout remaining forest habitats, I propose implementing overpasses for the Coconino wildlife. While the Coconino National Forest includes Sedona Red Rocks and various other geographic features and locations, this corridor will be placed just outside of Flagstaff, within the dense Ponderosa Pine forests.
Step 2: Target Animals for Corridor Design
The target animals for the design of the corridor will be Elk (Cervus canadensis) and Cougars (Puma concolor). These animals will act as the umbrella species, while also allowing for smaller animals of the Coconino (e.g. bobcat, jackrabbit, porcupine, collared javelina) to make use of the wildlife corridor as well.
http://www.fieldandstream.com/files/imagecache/photo-article/photo/38356/FN_mountain-lion_637_600x450.jpg accessed 4/14/12
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/55/Rocky_Mountain_Bull_Elk.jpg/275px-Rocky_Mountain_Bull_Elk.jpg accessed 4/14/12
Step 3: Needs of Target Species
One of the most important reasons for implementing such a wildlife corridor is to make our interstate(s) more permeable to wildlife. We are the ones that have invaded upon these species’ habits, and the least we can do is make an effort to give something back. Regularly, we see species on the side of the road who have been hit and killed by drivers on the I 17. This can be especially dangerous if a vehicle collides with one of the larger species in the Coconino forest habitat. In this case, we are putting ourselves and the Coconino wildlife in extreme danger. The wildlife corridor overpass would allow these animals a place to cross the interstate safely, for both us and them. Furthermore, we need to account for future urbanization and road development within the Coconino National Forest. If we are able to implement successful wildlife corridors now, we can continue development in such an area, while also creating a comfortable environment for the natural species which occupy it. It is important for us to find ways to successfully live amongst the species in our environment and allow for a steady and diverse species demographic in this natural forest area.
Step 4: Accommodating Movement within Corridor
To accommodate movement within the corridor, it is important that we make the size of the corridor large enough to appease our target species, as well as, make the ecotonal features as close to the natural habitat as possible. The total length of the corridor with be roughly 150 to 200 feet, while the width will be around 150 feet. There will be roughly 25 feet on each side of the interstate in case the interstate is to be widened in the future. All impediments to movement must be thoroughly assessed to ensure that the corridor will work effectively. Some of these may include: making sure the topography of the corridor closely matches that of the surrounding natural habitat; we will need to regularly monitor this to ensure that there is efficient concealing cover on the corridor. Fencing will need to be placed on the edges of the corridor to ensure that wildlife doesn’t fall over and onto the interstate. It will be important to implement no high-beam lighting when approaching the corridor at night to lessen light pollution. Wildlife crossing signs will also need to be placed on the side of the road to keep drivers at a low speeds when meeting with the corridor. Conservation easements must be implemented in order restrict property or building of any kind on the corridor.
As you can see from this map, the wildlife corridor overpass will be placed over Interstate 17 in the Coconino National Forest area. There will be enough room on each end of the interstate to widen the road if such development needs to take place in the future. The vegetation and overall topography of the area will closely resemble the surrounding habitat. A fence will be added to keep wildlife from plummeting onto the interstate.
Step 6: The following is a watchdog campaign poster to keep local protection over the corridor:
Keep Our Forests Wild!
http://thenewipo.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/banfflandcorridor.jpg accessed 4/14/12
We need your help to ensure the continued survival of our native forest species!
The newly built wildlife corridor overpass will help our wildlife migrate throughout our Coconino National Forest without finding their way onto the middle of the I-17.
Animals this will help protect will include: elk, cougars, bobcats, jackrabbits, squirrels, mule deer, etc.
This corridor is highly beneficial to the forest habitat that we live in. Please help keep an eye out for trespassers or any potential foul play that may be detrimental to the longevity of this corridor. Please call 555-1234 with any further questions.
While wildlife corridors do not guarantee effectiveness, they are certainly a step in the right direction of striving to maintain a comfortable habitat for our wildlife to thrive in. To ensure effectiveness, various measurements need to be taken-into-consideration for each corridor built depending on it’s surrounding habitat (such things as current species population, birth rates, and spatial distribution of population are among things to consider). We can only measure a corridors effectiveness through time and study, however, with proper adaptive management strategies, we can progressively take strides in building effective wildlife corridors.