Habitat Corridors: Saving Species. Storing Carbon

Contributor(s): 
November 10, 2014

One way species adapt to changing climatic conditions is by moving their geographic ranges in the direction of changing climatic niches, usually to either higher latitude or elevations. Successful range shifts, however, are contingent upon the ability of a species to migrate to the new, climatically suitable locations. For example, species might be unable to migrate due to their intrinsic characteristics (e.g., sedentary life style or short dispersal distances) or because of lack of suitable habitats between its current distribution and the future climatic niche. Establishing wildlife or habitat corridors has long been considered one of the main ways to allow species to disperse faster and further in the face of climate change, but the criteria for creating such corridors are still unclear. In a recent paper, Jantz et al. (2014) developed a system of corridors that connects areas of protected habitats, while passing through areas characterized by high vegetation carbon stock (i.e., above-ground biomass).

Jantz et al. (2014) used data from Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and high temporal frequency satellite imagery to create high resolution maps of vegetation carbon stock in tropical regions. Using these maps, they derived over 16,000 corridors between approximately 5,600 protected areas and found that a large proportion of corridors had above-ground biomass exceeding that of the protected areas they connected. Interestingly, corridors in Africa showed much higher vegetation carbon stock relative to protected areas that they anchored than those in South America or Asia. While there are a number of other criteria that need to be taken into consideration while establishing habitat corridors (e.g., habitat type or species composition of areas being connected; Feeley and Rehm 2014), Jantz et al. (2014) provided a valid approach to selecting areas suitable for both habitat connectivity and retaining large carbon stores, thus mitigating consequences of climate change on two separate fronts.

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References:

Jantz P., Goetz S., and Laporte N. 2014. Carbon stock corridors to mitigate climate change and promote biodiversity in the tropics. Nature Climate Change, 4, 138:142.

Felley K. J, and Rehm E.M. 2014. Priorities for conservation corridors. Nature Climate Change, 4, 405:406.