Lattice-work corridors as a response to climate change

Corridors must often fulfill the dual role of enabling dispersal as well as allowing for population persistence, which can be a challenge even without the added complication of a rapidly changing climate.  A new publication by Townsend and Masters addresses this challenge by promoting a resilience framework for corridor-building and management under conditions of rapid and often unpredictable climate change.  Their framework centers on the idea of “lattice-work corridors”: a corridor system that connects both across an elevational gradient (ex. along a river drainage) as well as within elevational bands.  As climate change forces individuals to shift their ranges, corridors that span across elevation gradients can facilitate dispersal to higher elevations, while corridors within elevation bands can facilitate population persistence by maintaining healthy populations in locally favorable environments.  This can be particularly effective in tropical forests, where biodiversity loss is projected to be high and mountain communities are likely to be altered as species move upslope.

latticeThe authors use the tropical mountains of Coasts Rica as an example of how to implement their framework.  They emphasize the ability of the lattice-work framework to support population persistence and dispersal while allowing for small-scale connectivity initiatives, rather that depending on large-scale habitat reforestation and habitat preservation. The overall framework can fit within already existing local institutions and can meet the needs and interests of local residents, which is key in ensuring long-term success. The authors argue that it is affordable and realistic to promote ecological and social-ecological systems that suffer little or no loss of function following disturbances, and moreover, are well-poised to survive future change, provided that conservationists are mindful of employing a resilience framework when designing and implementing  corridors.

2016-10-14T10:10:35-04:00 July 6th, 2015|

About the Author:

Heather Cayton
Heather Cayton is the Managing Director of ConservationCorridor.org and a Research Assistant at Michigan State University. She received her B.S. from the University of Virginia and her M.S. from Virginia Tech, and has spent over 10 years studying corridors and rare butterflies in North Carolina.