Corridor Analysis

Corridor Analysis

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Corridor Analysis

The United States is centered on the economic development, more specifically on the creation of wealth. It is understandable that creating wealth is of great importance, but continued economic development has lead to degradation of our environment. Therefore, presently we need sustained economic development in conjunction with responsible environmental and resource protection. As development increases, natural linkages within the landscape continue to be fragmented and remnant natural habitats become isolated. As a result, we need strategies to fight the consequences of fragmentation. One such strategy is to create a network of corridors. Corridors are narrow, linear strips of habitat that have wildlife value.

In “New Initiatives for Wildlife Conservation” Larry Harris and Peter Gallagher (1989) state, “Our refusal to incorporate movement across human dominated landscapes into our conservation strategies has made luck the chief prerequisite for survival in highly populated areas.” Corridors provide ecological and environmental quality values. For one thing, they help to maintain biological diversity. Fragmenting landscapes into distinct patches and restricting wildlife increase the risks of movement, and can also have severe consequences for the conservation of biological diversity. Conservation of biological diversity is extremely important because it can reduce the thread of a species becoming endangered or extinct. Corridors help to sustain the biological diversity by preserving migration corridors and connecting fragmented centers of plants and organisms.

Harris and Gallagher conclude that “Habitat connectivity declines with human modification of the landscape and the use of corridors is an attempt to maintain or to restore some of the natural landscape connectivity.” As a result, a network of corridors can improve fragmentation of the landscape and habitats. Corridors can serve as habitats in their own right and they can also serve as linkages for animals that migrate from patch to patch.

There are many different types of landscapes that can function as corridors. A stream corridor is perhaps the best area to create a system of interconnected corridors. The interface of land and water represent some of the richest wildlife habitats.

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There are many benefits to using streams as corridors; these include but are not limited to aesthetic values, preservation of water quality, minimization of runoff impacts, and control of erosion. However, even though streams may be the best area to create a corridor there are other options. Manmade corridors such as abandoned railroads, power line right of ways, windbreaks, hedgerows, and wooded screens can also be used as corridors. In designing corridors, there are several important aspects to consider such as width of the corridor, habitat structure, nature of surrounding habitats, and human use patterns.

According to Forman (1995) there are five terms that can be used to classify corridors. A remnant corridor is a corridor that has remained in its original state, but the surrounding area has been changed. A regenerated corridor is a corridor that has been disturbed but has redeveloped with plants and organisms. An introduced corridor is a corridor that has been disturbed; however, humans have influenced the redevelopment process. An environmental corridor is a corridor that is significantly different from its surroundings, but exists in its original state and has significant natural values. Lastly, a disturbed corridor is created by a disturbance of a surrounding area, which results in a corridor that is different from its surroundings. Every corridor can be classified into one of these five fundamental classifications.

Within each type of corridor there are a five basic functions, which are habitat, conduit, filter, source, and sink. Corridors provide habitats for a variety of species. A conduit provides species with the ability to move across the landscape. In contrast, a filter prevents the movement of species and certain materials across the landscape. Source relates to the corridor as a reservoir that provides both species and other materials to the surrounding areas, on the contrary, corridors also absorb species and other materials from the surrounding areas. These five functions can be observed in any type of corridor.

In “Landscape Structure Indices for Assessing Urban Ecological Networks” Edward A. Cook (2002) presents a framework for corridor content analysis. The analysis includes four principal variables, corridor size and type, vegetative structure and diversity, corridor context, and corridor naturalness. The first to be considered is corridor size and type. The size and type of a corridor will affect the five basic functions in different ways. There are two components of width that may show how a corridor can accommodate these basic functions. The first is the internal area of the corridor. The internal area is important to accommodate for stream flows and also significantly affects the five basic functions. The larger the internal area, the more area there is for species habitats. Corridor size also creates a conduit for species migration. With a larger corridor there are more opportunities for migration for some species, but for other species it restricts migration. Furthermore, a large corridor will be able to provide and accept organisms and materials to and from other areas. The second component of width that may show how a corridor can accommodate the five basic functions is an upland zone. It is imperative that a corridor contains an upland zone. The upland zone of a corridor has the same ecological function as the internal area, but filtering and buffering are considered to be of utmost importance in the upland zone. Upland zones are extremely important to incorporate in a stream corridor because it helps to dissolve substance input. Also, the corridor should be wide enough to incorporate a vegetated upland zone to help control erosion and filter runoff. “Forman (1995) notes that, overall, wider corridors are better and will enhance all five functions of corridors, habitat, conduit, filter, source, and sink (Cook 274).”

The second variable to consider is vegetative structure and diversity. In this analysis there are three components: vegetation amount, native vegetation, and vegetative structural diversity. Vegetation is important for ecological health and is essential for wildlife habitat. Forman notes plant growth can be an indicator of how productive a given area is. The best way to identify vegetation cover is to use aerial photography as an initial technique then use field inventory techniques. Use of these techniques will enable vegetation to be classified as part of the overall vegetation amount or native vegetation. The next component is structural diversity, which can indicate the ecological value of a given area. Diversity in the structure (i.e. canopy layer and shrub layer) can lead to a more diverse organism population. Connectivity of corridors, which is part of the structure component, can be enhanced by vegetation. “The presence of interior entities (i.e. water, flood plains, native vegetation, etc.) improves the connectivity value of a corridor (Cook 274).” Cook determined that the type and structural diversity of vegetation could be measured for each corridor.

The next variable to consider is corridor context. The area surrounding a corridor needs to be examined in the analysis. The matrix utility “refers to the extent species may utilize the landscape adjacent to and immediately surrounding corridor boundaries” (Cook 272). Matrix utility values can be assigned to surrounding areas. As the matrix utility implies there should be buffer zones around each corridor. This would attempt to increase the matrix utility of any given corridor. Another factor that is considered is the diversity gradient. Diversity gradient refers to the diversity of plants and animals due to a corridor passing through different habitat zones. The diversity of a corridor can have a positive effect on the ecological value. As the habitat zones that a corridor passes through increase there is an increase in the diversity of plants and animals. The last factor considered here is continuity. Continuity refers to the connectivity of a corridor as a whole. The presence and/or absence of gaps can be assessed in order to quantify the continuity of a corridor. It can be determined that the greater the continuity the greater the diversity and the higher the ecological value.

The last variable to consider is the naturalness index. The naturalness index considers native species, soils, and flows. Native plant species was previously discussed in vegetative structure and diversity and the same information can be used for the naturalness index. However, native wildlife species need to be considered as well. What species would exist in this environment without the influence of humans? The next consideration is soil and flows, which go hand in hand. Disruptions in flows can occur when there are rain or snow events that change the structure of the stream channel. This does occur naturally, however, due to impermeable surfaces and compacted soils created by humans there have been in increase in surface runoff, which in return disrupts the flows. These three aspects of the naturalness index can reduce the natural character of corridors in relation to the five functions of corridors.

Cook has done comprehensive studies on patches and corridors and his framework for analyzing them proves to work. He considers many different variables within each landscape, which can affect the productivity, biological diversity, and ecological value. There are not many comprehensive frameworks for analyzing corridors, however his framework emerges as one of the better techniques to analyze corridors. It is imperative for humans to understanding that there is a need to incorporate corridors into our conservation strategies. By using Cook’s framework we can analyze corridors and understand how implement corridors into our land development practices.

As the Cook-Douglass campus continues to develop and expand it appears that there is an increasing need for open space preservation. Open space preservation on the campus can accomplished by creating a network of corridors connecting environmentally significant patches. After environmentally significant patches are designated the first step is to identify all possible corridors that can be used to connect the patches. A numerical index needs to be created in order quantify the significance of each aspect of the analysis. Numerical indices need to be created based on the context of the Cook-Douglass Campus. Indices need to be determined based on the relationship between one corridor and the average corridor. Then all the possible corridors need to be subjected to the following analysis. The size of the corridor needs to be determined, and wider corridors should be considered more significant. The vegetative structure also needs to be investigated. Corridors that have a diverse structure are more significant. The vegetative diversity (different types of plants) should be determined, and more diverse corridors should be considered more significant. The context of the corridor needs to be understood. Surrounding uses need to be identified because corridors with a natural buffer should have more significant than a corridor that is adjacent to a building. The last consideration is the corridor naturalness. Corridors that have a large amount of native species, native soils, and native and natural should be more significant.

After considering this framework for corridor development on the Cook-Douglass Campus one can conclude that the streams that flow through campus would be good candidates to become a corridor. Streams are natural corridors and have significant ecological value. Also, according to environmental laws development cannot occur within a certain distance from a stream. Therefore, there will be a buffer that is created around the stream. In order to determine which corridors to use in a corridor network, the framework outlined previously needs to be utilized.

Work Cited

Adams, Lowell W., and Louise E. Dove. Wildlife Reserves and Corridors in The urban

Environment. Washington, D.C.: National Institute for Urban Wildlife, 1989

Cook, Edward A., “Landscape Structure Indices for Assessing Urban Ecological Networks.” Landscape and Urban Planning 58 (2002): 269-80

Forman, R.T.T., 1995. Land Mosaics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. P. 632

Forman. R.T.T., Godron. M., 1986. Landscape Ecology. Wiley, New York. P. 619.

Harris, Larry D., Peter B. Gallagher. “New Initiatives for Wildlife Conservation: The Need for Movement Corridors.” Florida Agricultural Experiment Station 9668
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