There are several reasons why wildlife needs these habitat connections, or ‘habitat corridors’ as they are sometimes called. Here is a quick run-down on why these corridors are so important for species everywhere.
Wildlife is in competition with one another for food and space to live. We’ve tried to make it easier to understand by explaining how it would affect us as humans…
Imagine you had a perfect home with a family and great neighbours within a thriving community. One day, floods came and your neighbourhood became an island, surrounded by water, and no one in the community had a boat. For the first couple of days you can cope – buying the groceries you need from local shops. However, soon, the shops run out of food.
Hedgehogs are affected by ‘habitat fragmentation’
Just over the water there are more shops but there is no way to get across – so you’re stuck, unless you get a boat or build a bridge. Now think about a small patch of meadow surrounded by a huge city – and a population of bees living there, or a patch of woodland surrounded by roads and motorways. Availability of food in small patches of habitat with no connections to other habitat patches is just one problem that secluded populations face.
Let’s take this one step further. Imagine that packages of food are delivered by air to your community on the island, so food is no longer a problem. As the months and years go on the number of people in your community increases as families have babies. There’s now an additional pressure as the competition for homes grows. Soon there are lots of people without suitable homes to live in. Across the water, there are plenty of vacant homes but no way of getting to them – once again a connection is vital.
Now, if food and homes are both in short supply what happens? It’s possible that people will not be able to survive. So the population decreases until there is enough food and enough shelter for everyone. But there is a new problem. Youngsters growing up want to start families of their own but there isn’t much choice of partners, as most people on the island are now related. Of course there is plenty of choice just across the water, if only there was some way to get across….
Eventually, members of the community all share very similar genetics. One day, a lethal disease occurs on the island. Many people in the community across the water have inherited immunity to this sickness but, unfortunately, because your community is isolated, no one in your community has the immunity. It’s possible that the community could be wiped out and go extinct.
These problems could have possibly been avoided if there was a connection, a boat, bridge or a corridor that could have allowed access to the people and resources just across the water. These are exactly the problems that wildlife in the UK – and all over the world – is now experiencing.
Wildlife habitat is becoming fragmented and isolated as a result of us changing landscapes but by creating corridors and connections we can help wildlife move around to reach new patches of habitat to find food, shelter and a mate to breed.
Two animals that are particularly affected by ‘habitat fragmentation’ (the technical term) and are aiming to support through Wildlife Connections is the common toad and hedgehog.
We can’t do this without your help though – take a look at our guides and resources and see how you can make your garden more wildlife friendly.