Habitat loss and fragmentation are major threats to biodiversity. Many species now exist as isolated populations, which have a heightened risk of extinction. In response, policies and initiatives are encouraging the creation of wildlife corridors - swathes of natural land cover that join habitat patches. It is assumed that corridors will facilitate wildlife passage between patches, allowing species to persist and become resilient to future threats, but most experiments assessing the utility of corridors have been conducted at scales that are orders of magnitude smaller than those at which corridors are implemented. They have also used response variables, e.g. individual movement, that are weakly related to long-term benefits.
This project aims to address these critical knowledge gaps by measuring a robust response variable – long-term gene flow – in large-scale and long-standing corridors in Europe and the Americas. We will combine field sampling, genetic analyses and modelling to assess: what corridors characteristics enable effective movement; how biological traits determine what types of species benefit; and how corridors should be designed to create resilient networks. This novel approach will provide fundamental insights into species’ responses to changed connectivity in the real world, transforming our knowledge of ecological dynamics at large scales.