October 22, 2008

Wildlife Corridors Must Not Be Symmetrical

U.S. scientists say people trying to help nature by designing wildlife corridors need to think more naturally and avoid regular, symmetrical structures.

Researchers from the University of California-Davis explained wildlife corridors are physical connections between disconnected fragments of plane and animal habitat. They can be very large or as small as a tunnel under an interstate highway.

"Human beings tend to think in terms of regular, symmetrical structures but nature can be much more irregular," said postdoctoral researcher Matthew Holland, the study's lead author. "We found that symmetrical systems of corridors may actually do less good for natural communities than designs with some randomness or asymmetry built in."

Without such corridors, animals cannot travel to food, water, mates and shelter and plants cannot disperse their pollen and seeds to maintain healthy, genetically diverse populations.

Holland said designing and implementing corridors -- sometimes called corridor ecology or connectivity conservation -- is a new subfield in environmental science. And Holland's research is among the first to help land managers and community planners designing corridors know what will work and what will not.

Holland and study co-author Alan Hastings report their research online in the journal Nature.