Corridors are popular in conservation, as they make intuitive sense to conservationists, scientists, and the broader public. But, creating effective corridors that actually promote conservation of biodiversity takes careful planning, based on knowledge of the biology of species they are intended to aid. Created poorly, corridors may have unintended negative consequences, potentially promoting unwanted (for example, invasive) species, and possibly legitimizing more extreme habitat destruction by people in and around corridors. How can functioning ecological corridors be designed and implemented?
Anuj Jain from the National University of Singapore and co-authors discuss opportunities that await in their recent publication in Conservation Biology, as they describe a number of corridor initiatives in Singapore and Malaysia. These include 17 ecological linkages of the Central Forest Spine in Peninsular Malaysia; 200 km of corridors already created in Singapore’s “park connector network”; Singapore’s Eco-Link project, a wildlife highway overpass; and others. Taken together, these examples show the promise of restoring landscape connectivity in southeast Asia.
Looking deeper across these projects, Jain and co-authors summarize how corridors have been created at times properly and at other times improperly, and conclude with measures that allow ecologists and conservationists to “redress past missed opportunities that resulted in paper corridors and implement corridors that can truly benefit the region’s threatened biodiversity.” They review how, for example, Singapore’s park-connector network is only a few meters wide, with ample access for pedestrians and cyclists but little consideration for biodiversity protection. Malaysia’s Central Asia Spine was created with little knowledge of how linkages would affect biodiversity, with few resources to implement them well, and nearly all are bisected by roads. Other corridors were created with almost no ecological underpinning, and with few resources as well.
Jain and co-authors conclude that successful corridors will be created with the input of ecologists that evaluate linkages based on their ability to conserve biodiversity (advancing, for example, the metrics for design and monitoring proposed by Gregory and Beier that were discussed last month). And, those corridors will have the political and financial support they need.