Experimental Corridors

Experimental corridors are used to evaluate corridor effectiveness. Most experimental corridors are the size of grassland or forest plots, on the scale of meters to hundreds of meters. Some experimental corridors are even smaller, and may consist of patches of mosses or wetlands contained in vials.

Experimental corridor examples

Moss as a natural model system for corridor research

mossCarpets of moss support a highly diverse community of tiny arthropods (e.g. insects and mites) and other microfauna that respond rapidly to experimental fragmentation. Continuous carpets are modified to create networks of moss fragments that remain either isolated or connected with corridors. Typically after 6 to 12 months population decline and extirpation is observed. This system has provided experimental support that corridors can prevent or slow extirpation by maintaining movement between fragments.  More recent experiments are now adding climate change treatments to study the interaction between climate change and habitat fragmentation. Small greenhouses are put over the top of the landscapes to test whether corridors still have the same positive effects on biodiversity under warmer and drier climates. Researchers around the world have published more than 20 scientific articles about the effects of changing habitat connectivity on biodiversity and ecosystem function in this model system.

Savannah River Site Corridor Experiment, South Carolina

SRS_corridorsExperimental patches were cut into a managed forest to test the effects of corridors on plant and animal dispersal, population persistence, and biodiversity. Specifically, research using this system is used to separate corridor effects created through increasing connectivity and edge habitat. The work on corridors to date has shown that corridors increase plant diversity, corridors increase plant and animal dispersal, and corridor effects on dispersal can be predicted from knowledge of smaller-scale movement behavior of animals, especially near habitat edges. In separating the effects of edges from the effects of corridors, research has shown that edges can cause birds to nest in places where their nests are more likely to fail, creating ecological traps, and edges can create unsuitable habitat for butterflies, affecting their ability to disperse.

Take a video tour through the Savannah River Site Corridor Experiment.

Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (B.D.F.F.P)

bdffp2The BDFFP was created in the late 1970’s, and has been maintained for over three decades to test the role of forest fragmentation on populations, communities, and ecosystems. Although the experiment was not created to test specifically the role of corridors, it has provided numerous insights into the role of habitat fragmentation and connectivity.

The Metatron

MetatronThe Metatron is a newly created experiment to test theories in spatial ecology, including the role of habitat fragmentation and corridors. The Metatron is the most controlled experiment for its size. Its 10×10 m habitat patches are completely enclosed, allowing control of temperature, sunlight, and humidity. Its corridors are similarly enclosed, allowing detailed tests of the role of corridors on populations and communities.

Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (S.A.F.E) Project

safe_project2The S.A.F.E. Project is a large experiment to test the role of habitat fragmentation and corridors on populations, communities, and ecosystems. The experiment is modeled off the BDFFP, and tests three inter-related responses to habitat fragmentation: the degree of forest degredation, the impacts of fragmentation, and the role of maintaining forests around riparian buffers.