A Conservation Corridor is an effective pattern of habitats linking existing protected areas to ensure ecological connectivity for species, communities and ecological processes. At it’s simplest a conservation corridor is a strip of land connecting two protected areas. In recent years conservationists have acknowledged that putting a fence around an area and proclaiming a park or reserve is insufficient to protect the patterns and processes that are required for proper ecological functioning at a regional level.
Fragmentation of the landscape causes the death of species and therefore a decrease in biodiversity. A key element in conservation biology is reversing the extinction of species.
“At it’s simplest a conservation corridor is a strip of land connecting two protected areas.
Protection and restoration of connectivity is not an artificial change to the landscape: rather it is the loss of connectivity and the isolation of natural environments that is the artefact of human land use (Noss 1991).
In most situations the linking habitat already exists, it is a characteristic feature of natural environments, but has not been identified as such or managed appropriately. Linkages in the landscape exist in various forms, landscape linkages, riparian linkages, hedgerows, fencerows and roadside linkages.
THE FUNCTIONS OF A CORRIDOR ARE AS FOLLOWS:
- To enable migration and interbreeding of plants and animals
- Facilitate movement between ecosystems by both large and small animals
- Maintain key ecological processes (seed dispersal, pollination, nutrient cycling, predator-prey interactions, proper functioning of the hydrological cycle) across different types of habitats
- Maintain habitats that aid movement by animals through a degraded environment
- Serve as a fire escape
- Allow for the re-colonization of indigenous plants in degraded patches
- Enhance the long-term survival of larger herbivore and carnivore species by safe-guarding their home ranges
- Ensure the flow of ecosystem services that contribute to the overall ecological sustainability of an area
- Enhance the biodiversity of the landscape in which the corridor occurs
DEFINITIONS OF TERMS USED:
Ecological: The interrelaitionship between organisms and their natural environment
Protected areas: formally protected areas such as a National or Provincial Park
Habitat: the place in which an organism lives
Ecosystem: A biological community and the physical environment associated with it. An ecosystem consists of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving, physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water, and sunlight. Nutrients and energy move round ecosystems in loops or cycles. For example nutrients in the soil are taken up by plants which are then eaten by herbivores which in turn may be eaten by carnivores. Healthy ecosystems deliver services for the functioning of all life forms. Biodiversity: means the diversity of organisms within an ecosystem. In order for an ecosystem to be strong and resilient to outside pressures and changes it must be diverse – the higher the diversity of organisms the more resilient the ecosystem will be.
Ecological patterns: A landscape is like a tapestry. It comprises a diverse number of habitats and land-uses all woven together to form a distinct pattern. Like the threads of the tapestry all aspects of the landscape are connected, binding them inextricably into a beautiful finished product.
Ecological Process: Ecological processes are specific natural processes, such as pollination, that are essential for the maintenance of biodiversity. Ecosystem Services: are the benefits people receive from ecosystems. These can be food through crop pollination, water from a functioning hydrological cycle, medicine from plants, recreational opportunities and clean air. These services are affected when there is a loss of genetic diversity and species diversity. If an element within the system is disrupted, i.e the bees die and certain plants are no longer pollinated, it can cause a chain of events that leads to the ultimate breakdown of the system that supports life.