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What is an Eco Bridge/Wildlife Corridor?

Wildlife corridors, also known as "eco-bridges," are areas of habitat that connect wildlife populations
that would otherwise be separated by human activities or structures such as roads, other
infrastructure development, or logging and farming. Practically speaking, a wildlife corridor is a link of
wildlife habitat, generally made up from native vegetation, which joins two or more larger areas of
similar wildlife habitat. Wildlife corridors play a very important role in maintaining connections
between animal and plant populations that would otherwise be isolated and therefore at greater risk
of local extinction. Eco-bridges may include: underpass tunnels, viaducts, and overpasses (mainly
for large or herd-type animals); amphibian tunnels; fish ladders; Canopy bridge (especially for
monkeys and squirrels), tunnels and culverts (for small mammals such as otters, hedgehogs, and
badgers); green roofs (for butterflies and birds).

The 62 Km long eco-bridge in Singapore. Animals like pangolins, palm civet and squirrels have been seen
traversing the eco link. | Source

Why Do We Need Eco-Bridges?


Human activity and intervention in our natural environment leave fragmented patches of intact or
relatively intact ecosystems whose ties with others are severed. If human activities continue in the
area, those islands of biodiversity become even smaller and grow further apart putting the
ecosystems at risk. This ultimately leads to a breakdown in the various ecological processes such as
species migration, recycling of nutrients, pollination of plants and other natural functions required for
ecosystem health. As a result, the habitat will suffer severe biodiversity decline and local extinction
of sensitive species.
Animals may also suffer by not being able to access particular habitats. In times of drought, roads
can prohibit animals from reaching water.

Further, when animals cross roads, mortality is often the result. This rate of mortality can severely
threaten animals and has been identified as a leading cause of the decline in some populations.

In such circumstances, wildlife corridors can help halt biodiversity loss and redress some of the
impacts of the degradation and isolation of ecosystem.

Importance of Eco Bridges in Biodiversity


Management
 To prevent genetic isolation of fragmented flora and fauna populations, the bridge would
encourage the interaction of wildlife by facilitating movement between the once separated
forests and effectively expand habitat, mating and foraging ranges of flora and fauna.
 With wildlife crossing the expressway from one nature reserve to another, the chances of
pollination and dispersion of rare native plants could greatly increase.
 Eco-bridges would also bring about greater interaction between individuals leading to a healthy
exchange of genetic materials, thereby reducing the occurrence of inbreeding and increasing
the long-term survival of our native species.
 Providing crossing infrastructure at key points along transportation corridors is known to
improve safety, reconnect habitats and restore wildlife movement. Throughout Europe, Asia,
Australia and North America, wildlife crossing structures have been implemented with
demonstrable success.
 Species that prefer natural areas (urban avoiders or urban adaptors) have not evolved as fast
as the rapid pace of development. Thus, they prefer to remain within the natural areas or their
edges. The species that prefer urban areas (urban exploiters) are usually different to those
found in natural areas. Therefore, appropriate corridors for the dispersal of species are
necessary to link between natural areas if they are far apart or isolated.

Overpasses such as this one allow for traffic to continue for human convenience, while allowing wildlife to pass
unharmed beneath from place to place. | Source

Challenges Involved with Eco Bridges


 The challenging aspects of wildlife corridors are the lack of funding because of the lack of
research into the actual benefits of these corridors. Many organizations involved in spreading
the word about wildlife corridors find it hard to generate a response.
 Wildlife corridors often need to be built towards a specific animal population which can
decrease their efficiency in the grand scheme of conservation. A big horned sheep, for
instance, might not cross a wildlife corridor built for that area’s bear population even though its
migratory habits are similar.
 As many wildlife corridors intersect busy roads or places where a lot of humans are, many
species shy away from the area. Corridors also need to be built very wide to maintain the
wilderness effect, but this land is very hard to get approved for usage as a wildlife corridor in
some cases.
 They also must maintain the same habitat as the areas the animals call home, or crossing will
seem unnatural to the animals using the corridor. Unfortunately, these corridors often allow for
the safe passage of invasive species of flora and fauna which can drastically change the
ecosystem of a nearby area that was once inaccessible.
 More study needs to be conducted on specific animal migratory patterns as well as the overall
benefits of these corridors in order to know if they are truly worth the cost of building and
maintaining. In the meantime, the existing corridors should be taken care of and used as
stepping stones for the future of localized animal conservation.

What Can be Done?


Overall corridor management should aim to ensure that ecological processes and corridor function
are maximised:

 Maintain and increase vegetation cover and habitat quality to maximise connection between
larger remnants of vegetation. This will help dispersal of wildlife populations between larger
remnants and ensure genetic interchange and seasonal wildlife movement;
 Provide specific habitat resources and ecological needs, particularly for threatened species
(e.g. Koalas);
 Maximise corridor width and function by revegetation and control of weeds and feral animals;
 Maximise the protection/linkage of landforms (i.e.. valley floors, floodplains, gullies, mid-slopes
and ridges).