What is connectivity conservation?
Extensive development in eastern Australia over the last 200 years has led to the fragmentation and degradation of many ecosystems, leaving small islands of habitat where animals and plants areleft isolated. As a result, the landscape is less able to support Australia’s unique native species and Aboriginal cultural heritage, or to provide vital ‘ecosystem services’ such as filtering air and water, and maintaining healthy soil.
Connectivity conservation is a socially inclusive strategy that engages local communities in maintaining, restoring and reconnecting habitats. It aims to stop species extinction and the rapid decline in environmental health, and increase the resilience of ecosystems so that native species are better able to deal with a range of threats.
How does it work?
Connectivity conservation projects create linkages and corridors between protected areas and other patches of habitat, increasing the mobility and range of many species and allowing them to move from one patch of protected vegetation to another. This can help species to cope better with the shortages of food, suitable habitats, and breeding partners caused by climate change and habitat fragmentation.
Connectivity conservation can include several types of linkages:
- A linear corridor, which is a strip of vegetation that connects two larger protected areas.
- Landscape corridors, which are a series of generally small habitat patches that overlap to connect two larger areas.
- Stepping stones, which are separate patches of habitat that act as refuge for animals travelling to and from larger protected areas.
In order to protect native species and ecosystems we need to achieve functional connectivity, as well as physical connectivity .Functional connectivity refers to natural ecosystem functions and services such as water cycles, organic material and pollinating insects, which are all vital to the well-being of a connected landscape. Simply planting trees and releasing pioneer individuals into an area does not guarantee success. If an area is physically connected, but ecosystem processes are disrupted, it does not serve its purpose.
What are some examples of connectivity projects?
NPA and connectivity
- NPA is a Lead Partner of the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative, one of the world's largest connectivity conservation projects.
- NPA has also been campaigning for many years to save the Travelling Stock Routes and Reserves network, which is an extensive network of habitat corridors (stock routes) and stepping stones (stock reserves), providing connectivity across NSW and Queensland.
Other connectivity initiatives
A number of major connectivity projects have been established in other countries over the last 10 years, most notably the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative in Canada and the United States of America.
Other linking landscape initiatives in Australia include Gondwana Link in Western Australia; Habitat 141° in South Australia, Victoria and New Zealand; NatureLinks in South Australia; and the Territory Eco-Link in the Northern Territory.
Want to know more?
Connectivity conservation resources online
- Independent report for the NSW Government: Connectivity conservation and the Great Eastern Ranges corridor
- NPA Report proposing NSW corridor concept (pre-GER): Connect to protect- Eastern Links: A proposal to establish an Eastern Highlands conservation corridor
- Scientific papers: Issues in Ecology: The Role of Landscape Connectivity in Planning and Implementing Conservation and Restoration Priorities
- Australian Government Report: National Wildlife Corridors Plan
- International connectivity conservation website: www.connectivityconservation.net
Connectivity conservation books
- Connectivity Conservation Management- A Global Guide. Editors: Graeme L. Worboys, Wendy L. Francis, Michael Lockwood. Published 2010.
- Connectivity Conservation. Editors: Kevin R. Crooks, M. Sanjayan. Published 2006.
- Linkages in the Landscape- The Role of Corridors and Connectivity in Wildlife Conservation Author: Andrew F. Bennett. Published 2003.