Creating connected landscapes not only sustains a wide variety of wildlife but also enhances the quality of life for wildlife and humans, too.
By: Erin Postma
Modern technology can be a wonderful thing. Last week, I flew from Toronto to Denver. The flight lasted just over 3 hours. If I had to walk from Toronto to Denver, it would have taken me over 500 hours or 22 days of continuous walking. I am so grateful for modern technologies such as planes and cars because they provide me with the opportunity for new experiences and to explore unique places around the world.
Unfortunately, with all of our modern technology and our new modern infrastructure, we are negatively impacting our planet. When looking out the airplane window, I could really see the imprint humans have left on the landscape. The landscape is made of both natural and humanized patches - but, over the years, the humanized patches seem to be winning. Humans are continually modifying and fragmenting the land through agriculture, urban development, climate change, deforestation and so much more.
Human activity is disrupting ecological connectivity. Ecological connectivity allows wildlife to roam freely between natural areas without barriers. Breaking up the land with roads, fences, and dams creates a harmful living environment for wildlife. A road can stop animals from reaching an important water source, expanding cities may take over land that served as important habitat, and fences may disrupt important migration pathways. We need to create and increase connectivity to address the challenges posed by the current climate crisis, which is causing an increase in severe weather events, changes in water flow, and disrupted food chains, further exacerbating the impact of human activity on ecological connectivity.
Ecological connectivity is so important for many reasons. Having connected landscapes allows for movement, which allows wildlife to find food, breed, and establish new home territories. Animals are not the only ones who benefit from connectivity; humans do as well. Humans rely on ecological connectivity— connected landscapes are needed for things like healthy soil, water flow, and pollination. Connectivity also decreases the amount of human and animal encounters, which helps decrease the number of preventable wildlife deaths. Fundamentally, the unimpeded movement of animals is important in maintaining the flow of natural processes that help sustain life on Earth. Due to the variety of problems humans are creating, connectivity will be crucial to the survival of many species.
Sometimes the environmental problems we face can seem daunting and overwhelming. Looking out of that airplane window and seeing how human activity has affected the environment, ecological connectivity seems impossible. But efforts are underway— many organizations are working towards maintaining and restoring ecological connectivity. We can combat habitat fragmentation by supporting proper agricultural management and land use management; we can be mindful of our consumption habits; we can encourage and support conservation and preservation efforts; we can plant gardens to improve urban connectivity; we can do our part in combating climate change. There are many ways for people to get involved in helping increase ecological connectivity.
Algonquin to Adirondacks Collaborative is a group doing work in creating and maintaining ecological connectivity. A2A is a diverse bioregion that connects Algonquin Park to Adirondack Park. It is one of the last large-scale, intact forest and wetland linkages in eastern North America. The vision of A2A is to create a connected landscape that not only sustains a wide variety of wildlife but also enhances the quality of life for wildlife and humans. A2A takes its inspiration from a moose named Alice, who travelled from her home in Adirondack Park to Algonquin Park, a trek of 570 km. Alice demonstrated the need for wildlife to roam, the importance of connected pathways, and their crucial role in migration. Alice's journey inspired us to take action, ensuring the corridors' protection for others to roam freely. Sometimes all it takes is tracking the migration pattern of a moose to realize the importance of ecological connectivity! The wilderness tells us what it needs— we just need to take some time to listen.