Monday 11 December 2017

Wildlife corridors so beneficial for animal habitats

By Jim Hurley - Nature Trail

The benefits of wildlife corridors are not exclusive to Red Squirrels.
The benefits of wildlife corridors are not exclusive to Red Squirrels.

The concept of a wildlife corridor is an interesting one. The purpose of the corridor is the same be it long or short, wide or narrow, on a small scale in a local townland or on a large scale stretching across continents and international boundaries.

Essentially, the corridor is a strip of land or water linking two wildlife places that have become separated due to human development. The corridor reconnects the two places thereby allowing wildlife to move back and forth.

Imagine, if you will, a wood with a population of Red Squirrels. Say the wood is completely surrounded by farmland. To facilitate access by agricultural machinery that is ever-increasing in size and complexity, say small fields have been merged into one large complex, hedgerows have been grubbed out, drains have been piped and ponds have been filled in.

Consequently, the wood with its Red Squirrel population has become an island, an arc floating in a sea of agricultural development. The Red Squirrels are completely cut off from other woodlands and from other squirrel populations making them vulnerable to inbreeding, disease, fire, etc., and possibly positioning them on a slippery slope towards extinction.

Imagine another wood in the same dilemma. The solution is obvious: a connecting hedgerow, a wildlife corridor, a safe passage, an umbilical cord linking the two woods to allow the Red Squirrels to move back and forth. Ideally, the two woods should also connect to other woods via a spider web of corridors.

Since habitat loss and habitat fragmentation are ever-increasing threats to biodiversity, wildlife corridors may potentially moderate or mitigate some of the worst effects. And the benefits are not exclusive to Red Squirrels; plants, birds, mammals and all sorts of creepy crawlies can freely move along the hedgerow wildlife corridor.

If the hedgerow is adjoined by a deep, water-filled trench then aquatic, marsh and wetland organisms may move too. The investment is low-tech and relatively inexpensive yet the benefits for wildlife can be enormous.

If continuous corridors are not an option then the next best solution is stepping stones, a chain of small patches of suitable habitat forming a broken wildlife corridor.

If a wildlife corridor runs up against a busy motorway an underpass can be used to carry the corridor to the other side. Alternatively, a shelf or ledge above the water surface can be built under a road bridge spanning a river providing an underpass.

Where there's a will, there's a way.

Wexford People

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