Wildlife corridors are passages connecting two or more areas – which would otherwise be isolated – that act as habitats for local, seasonal, or migratory animals. They offer protection, food, and shelter for fauna on the move. Sufficient habitational space and access to this space play a critical role in maintaining ecological biodiversity, a resource gaining increased attention and priority worldwide. The areas most predisposed to declining ecological biodiversity are built-up urban areas. Cities are places of contested space, although wildlife corridors do provide an opportunity to mitigate some of the ecological damage done, is it worth allocating room for them?
Wildlife corridors allow two (or more) ecosystems to effectively share resources. Island biogeography, a theory which picked up traction in the 1960s, shows how larger islands – originally the theory was discussing literal islands, but the same applies to any ecosystem surrounded by dissimilar geography; such as a park in a city – are more biodiverse and have a larger resistance to species extinction than smaller islands. This is one of the mechanisms by which wildlife corridors can strengthen ecological networks.
The advantages of wildlife corridors do not only favor the natural life the lives within, however. Benefits can also be felt by the people who live in an otherwise man-made landscape. Since the industrial revolution, the effects of living in heavily built-up environments have come to the forefront. Experiencing nature in our everyday life has been shown to boost our mood, motivation, and mental state.
The concept of the garden city was born in recognition of the disadvantages of an overly built-up urban environment and the advantages of including nature as a part of our everyday experience. The rise of the garden city foreshadowed the implementation of wildlife corridors in contemporary times. If you would like to read more about the emergence of the garden city look no further: https://heritagecalling.com/2016/02/18/a-brief-introduction-to-garden-cities/#:~:text=Letchworth%20was%20the%20world’s%20first,should%20be%20designed%20and%20constructed.
On a larger scale, wildlife corridors can provide ecosystem services that can benefit a city’s population passively. Using wildlife corridors as natural drainage systems, urban cooling systems, or as natural air purifiers all have potential and are being heavily considered globally.
Wildlife corridors come in many shapes and sizes. Their form vastly depends on the particular wildlife for which they are intended to support. One example which was considered a huge success globally was the so-called bee highway created in Oslo. Bee’s ability to fly means they do not need an uninterrupted supply of flora to traverse the city. Because of that, this wildlife corridor was relatively simple to construct. Other wildlife corridors can be much more resource and space-intensive. An ambitious wildlife corridor completed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts connects Franklin park to the Charles River via a collection of smaller green spaces. Its multi-nodal structure has earned it the nickname ‘The Emerald Necklace’. The corridor, inclusive of all green areas, covers a total of 1100 acres and is an example of what is possible within built-up urban areas when collaboration across actors occurs. If you would like to read more about this exceptional corridor go to: https://www.emeraldnecklace.org/.
Cities can become hubs for all walks of life big, and small, but it takes willingness from the citizens in these cities to actively include the natural in their lives.