Ecological connectivity has become a cornerstone of conservation science and practice. Since the introduction of wildlife corridors as a game management strategy in the early 20th century, followed by the recognition of connectivity as a fundamental element of landscape structure in the 1990’s, well over 1,000 scientific papers on corridors and connectivity have been published in the fields of biodiversity conservation and ecology. During this time, habitat loss and fragmentation have widely been agreed to constitute the single greatest threat to biodiversity worldwide, and climate change is expected to exacerbate these effects, as species’ ranges must shift across fragmented landscapes to track suitable conditions. Although protected areas such as national parks have long been the primary focus of conservation, it is now widely understood that isolated reserves will not be sufficient to sustain some species and communities in the face of these combined threats. Land use modification around protected areas has reduced their ecological function via a range of mechanisms linking them to the degraded ecosystems that surround them, and specific climate envelopes for many species currently supported by reserves are expected to shift beyond reserve boundaries.
Corridors are intended to mitigate the effects of land use and climate change by facilitating movement of individuals among patchy resources and among populations, providing buffering effects from local extinction processes, supporting gene flow and thus genetic diversity, maintaining ecological processes such as migration, and enabling species and ecological community adaptation in response to climate change. Conservation strategies that maintain biodiversity in human-modified landscapes beyond protected area borders, particularly those aiming to maintain or restore connectivity between remaining habitat patches, are now considered critical in the face of future landscape change (Plassmann et al 2016: 44).
Plassmann, G., Kohler, Y., Badura, M.,Walzer, C. (2016): Alpine Nature 2030. Creating [ecological] connectivity for generations to come. Published by: Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).