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Study on wildlife corridors shows how they work over time
Date:12/2/2008

At the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, there are five strange looking "patches" cleared out of the surrounding forest. No, they're not crop circles carved by aliens.

They're actually budding longleaf pine forest ecosystems. Biologists at Washington University in St. Louis and their collaborators at North Carolina State University, the University of Florida, and the University of Washington have created these ecological patches with the help of the United States Forest Service-Savannah River to understand whether "corridors" help plants and animals survive habitat fragmentation.

The Washington University biologists are Ellen Damschen, Ph.D.,and John Orrock, Ph.D., both assistant professors of biology in Arts & Sciences.

Corridors are thin strips of habitat that connect isolated habitat patches in fragmented landscapes. The landscape is composed of central square "patch" of habitat that is connected by a corridor to a peripheral square habitat patch. There are also two other types of peripheral patches that help determine how corridors work. Unconnected "rectangular" patches control for the addition of habitat area that comes with the implementation of a corridor. The unconnected "winged" patches control for the change in the shape of the patch that results from adding a corridor.

Conservation biologists interested in predicting how corridors work can make use of "movement ecology," a new framework that can describe how traveling species enter habitats in modern landscapes, which are seldom continuous and vast.

In 2006, Damschen and Orrock and their colleagues published the first definitive evidence that corridors are effective in extending plant biodiversity in fragmented large-scale habitats in a paper published in Science.

Their new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published on-line Dec. 1as part of a special issue on movement
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Contact: Ellen Damschen
damschen@wustl.edu
31-409-359-106
Washington University in St. Louis
Source:Eurekalert

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