Loss of connectivity will impact wildlife, says study

A new research from Wildlife Conservation Society has revealed that loss of connectivity will have negative impacts on the wildlife and its re production.

Wild animals disperse or move between isolated forest fragments to maintain linkages or connectivity. But in a fast changing world, these linkages are slowly eroding. What are the implications to biodiversity when connectivity is lost?

Scientists from the University of Florida and the Wildlife Conservation Society (India) examine this critical question through a review of 370 scientific articles from across the globe.

 “Across species, and across geographies, whether you are looking at genetic material, population growth rates, or communities, the answer is the same – as connectivity erodes, species lose out,” says Dr. Robert Fletcher, lead author of the study and Associate Professor at the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida.

 As connectivity is lost, animals are less able to adapt to new environments, more prone to diseases, and can suffer from low survival and reproduction. Ultimately, local extinctions may occur, leaving behind depauperate animal communities and collapsing ecological systems.

 “In India, Protected Area sizes are small, and landscapes are rapidly changing”, says Dr Divya Vasudev, Wildlife Conservation Society (India). “Still we have little knowledge of the consequences on our biodiversity”.

 Even for a species that is well studied, like the tiger, we are only now acquiring empirical knowledge on the role that connectivity plays in preventing its extinction. Potentially dispersing tigers have been removed into captivity from conservation landscapes.

 The country is immersed in debates and court cases on the construction of National Highways across recognised tiger corridors. “If we had a better handle on the consequences of disrupting connectivity between tiger populations, maybe it would prompt more effective mitigative action”,  adds Dr Vasudev.

 Connectivity research provides practical insights to specific negative implications of habitat fragmentation on wildlife.

The paper titled ‘Divergent perspectives on landscape connectivity reveal consistent effects from genes to communities’ was published in the journal Current Landscape Ecology Reports last month. 

Authors include Robert J Fletcher, Noah S Burrell, Brian E Reichert, Divya Vasudev, and James D Austin.

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