Connectivity Conservation

Connectivity conservation is a new, socially inclusive approach to addressing conservation on a large-landscape scale. In the past it was thought we could conserve nature adequately by establishing National Parks and Reserves. However these reserves often become isolated 'islands' of vegetation amid surrounding lands managed for farming, industry or other uses. With accelerating species extinction, climate change, and other threats (such as land clearing for agriculture, mining, industry and housing) this approach is no longer enough.

We all know plant and animal species do not adhere to human boundaries. We also know some species will not move between habitat fragments. This increases competition for food and reduces opportunities to breed.

To ensure the survival, health and resilience of all species – including Humans (Homo sapiens) – we must determine how we can rehabilitate and reconnect islands of vegetation on a large scale, so a mosaic of ecosystems existing across the landscape can function more effectively.

Connectivity conservation is an holistic approach using science to identify where, why and how 'gaps' in natural vegetation can be restored to provide more functional links in an ecosystem. Connection of habitats is key to the long-term health of ecosystems and the services they provide to wildlife and human communities. Services proved to people by healthy ecosystems range from carbon storage in native forests and soil, to the pollination of plants and commercial crops, the decomposition of waste, and the provision of clean drinking water.

Advantages of connectivity

Ecologists agree that, as a rule, increasing ecological coherence enhances the essential structure, processes and functioning of ecosystems, improves the interaction between organisms and their environment and strengthens the resilience of ecosystems when responding to stress. Landscape connectivity conservation is a principal means of conservation and is an essential element of protected area design in a fragmented landscape. Connectivity permits regular movements of species, ensuring that different subsets of larger populations have access to all the resources they require. They make it possible for all individuals in a population to interbreed, reducing inbreeding.

They help to maintain landscape processes that species depend on, such as hydrology and disturbance regimes. However, the advantages are not limited to the survival of species. Conservation connectivity provided for ecological purposes can strengthen ecosystem services, such as the provision of water supplies, increased resources for utilization and improved air quality.