By Dr. Nicole Heller
Becoming Migrant was this year’s theme for the Carnegie Nexus. The series explored the science and art of passage through creative programming. Migration is a very important issue for wildlife conservation in the Anthropocene. Roads and building developments heavily fragment landscapes, leading more animals to be hit by cars or run into trouble with people. Movement is especially hard for animals that don’t fly and need large home ranges to gather sufficient food, such as American Black Bears and bobcats, two large mammal species that live here in Allegheny County.
Conservation has long recognized the need to create connectivity between protected areas to support the movement of large mammals in the landscape, but with climate change, connectivity has become paramount to the long-term success of protected areas and species in general. As the climate changes, plants and animals must migrate to track suitable climate conditions. This means that more species are becoming migrant, and their long-term survival depends on it.
Prioritizing connectivity planning and making sure we do it in ways that are climate-smart is a leading edge of conservation science. There are many different types of corridor projects, from building crossings over particularly dangerous roads, such as the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing in Los Angeles, CA. Or large-landscape connectivity projects to create continental migration pathways such as Y2Y project.
I first wrote about climate adaptation 10 years ago. In this research, I identified that the most impactful thing we could do to help species survive climate change is to create habitat connectivity in the landscape. Recently, I published two scientific articles, with a group of colleagues, further exploring the issue of climate change and connectivity. In one paper, published in Environmental Research Letters, we explore the best models and methods for incorporating climate change into connectivity conservation planning. And in the other paper, published in Conservation Biology, we consider best practices to take corridors from idea to implementation on the ground.
We hope this information will be helpful to conservation groups around the world who are working to make sure the landscape supports wildlife today and into the future.
Dr. Nicole Heller is Curator of the Anthropocene for Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences working at the museum.