Mitigation of Habitat Fragmentation Through Wildlife Corridors
The construction of roadways has been dividing wildlife habitats and decreasing the biodiversity in the population. Biodiversity can affect many things in our daily lives. The World Health Organization provides many reasons that biodiversity is helpful to society. One of those reasons is the research of pharmaceuticals. If we do not provide ways to work around habitats, we may lose necessary genes to discover cures of future diseases. The best mitigation technique to connect habitats is the use of wildlife over or underpasses. A study on the Trans-Canada Highway showed a decrease of wildlife involved vehicle collisions when a wildlife underpass was introduced. Wildlife corridors provide a safe area for wildlife to cross a highway without the possibility of being hit by a vehicle. This connects a habitat to the other section of habitat on the other side of the road. Since the two sides are connected, wildlife will still be able to safely travel to both sides for breeding and foraging. This keeps biodiversity intact between the two sections of habitat. Mitigating habitat fragmentation is the best solution to save biodiversity while increasing infrastructure. This is the best for the common good of man and wildlife.
In recent discussions of habitat fragmentation, a controversial issue has been whether mitigating habitat fragmentation is better for the greater good of mankind or not. On the one hand, some argue that habitat in an unfortunate side effect of a growing society. From this perspective, humans are setting their own achievements on a higher pedestal than the wellbeing of wildlife. On the other hand, however, others argue that as we grow as a society, we can work around wildlife habitat and create other things to improve the habitat of wildlife. In sum, then, the issue is whether habitat fragmentation is a large enough issue to figure out ways around it or continue to grow as a society and disregard the fragmentation of wildlife habitat.
My own view is that as a society we can continue to grow as well as providing ways to prevent habitat fragmentation. Though I concede that disregarding habitat fragmentation is best for the common good of mankind, I maintain that we need to consider what is in the common good of all things both mankind and wildlife. For example, the creation of major highways and interstates are leading to habitat fragmentation. Although some might object that these roadways are not wide enough to cause habitat fragmentation, I would reply that many animals are killed on roadways every year and there are ways to connect the habitats on both sides of the roadway while mitigating habitat fragmentation and property damage to vehicles. The issue is important because society and wildlife are constantly at odds with each other and instead of forcing our hand over them because we are human, we can create ways to save their habitat as well as grow as a society.
Review of Literature
A problem within the conservation and wildlife management field involves the relationship between habitat fragmentation and urban development. The increase of infrastructure is a good thing for society but it is detrimental to the wildlife that thrive in the area. To be in the best interest of the common good is more that doing what is best for humans and humans alone. As stewards of the land, we must care for the land we are working as well as the wildlife in that area. In order to develop our infrastructure with the common good of all in mind, we must use techniques to mitigate habitat fragmentation.
Habitat fragmentation leads to a decrease in wildlife biodiversity which would lessen the benefits that humans can derive from the wildlife. The World Health Organization (WHO) claims, “Significant medical and pharmacological discoveries are made through greater understanding of the earth’s biodiversity. Loss in biodiversity may limit discovery of potential treatments for many diseases and health problems.” Humans need wildlife biodiversity to increase our knowledge of wildlife benefits. The more diverse the ecosystem is the greater range of research we can produce. In 2020, the world suffered from the COVID-19 virus and research is still going on to figure out the best ways to control it. Wildlife is not affected as adversely as humans, so maybe there is some research to be done through biodiversity do decrease the affects of COVID-19. Lenore Fahrig confirms the fact that habitat loss is directly related to loss of biodiversity. Fahrig states that, “species showing declining trends in global abundance are more likely to occur in areas with high habitat loss than are species with increasing or stable trends.” Habitat loss decreases wildlife populations and declining populations will continue to decline.
As a society we need to be worried about habitat fragmentation, and we need to do anything in our power to find ways to decrease habitat fragmentation. In Southern Canada, partnered with Montana State University, they have done extensive research on techniques of increasing infrastructure while mitigating habitat fragmentation. The techniques used were wildlife corridors. Wildlife corridors connect one side of a highway to the other side in a way that allows wildlife to safely cross without the possibility of being hit. This study took place on the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH) which spans almost 5,000 miles across Canada. In the area of the Highway near Banff National Park, a 24 mile stretch, the inclusion of wildlife overpasses and underpasses decreased the wildlife vehicle collision rate by 80 percent annually.
Wildlife corridors should be implemented across the United States to help mitigate the habitat fragmentation. Wildlife corridors will include wildlife overpasses and underpasses that allow animal movement from one side of a highway to the other side. Wildlife corridors have been proven to decrease the amount of vehicle collisions and wildlife mortality rates due to roads. The wildlife corridors will seemingly connect the habitat on one side of the highway to the other side. This will decrease the effects of urban development on biodiversity.
Infrastructure is a large part of the United States annual spending and is a great help to society, but without consideration to the wildlife it is not the best thing for the common good. The construction of highways decreases the amount of biodiversity in an ecosystem. This limits the amount of research able to be conducted that could help society in the future. Biodiversity increases the probability of research advancements. The World Health Organization asserts that, “The management of natural resources can determine the baseline health status of a community. Environmental stewardship can contribute to secure livelihoods and improve the resilience of communities” (WHO, 2015, para. 13). Scientific research is necessary for the common good of mankind. The development of infrastructure cannot be ceased but, it cannot be continued as it is now. For the best outcome for the common good of mankind and wildlife, highways can still be constructed with the inclusion of wildlife corridors. This will allow animals to connect with other breeding grounds and increase biodiversity and allow the increase of urban development.
North America’s landscape has been becoming more and more fragmented in the past 100 years. This is caused mainly from roads and the increase of infrastructure. With this increase, habitats loss and loss of biodiversity has also increased. Roads cut across and through habitats, but animals do not cease trying to cross. This also greatly increases the amount of wildlife involved in vehicle collisions. The problem of habitat fragmentation caused by road construction was studied extensively by Miistakis Institute and Montana State University on the Trans-Canada Highway.
The study on the Trans-Canada Highway showed the positive effects that mitigation techniques have on habitat connectivity and on the reduction of wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVC). One area of highway that was studied was Dead Man’s Flat’s. This section of highway was 3 km (1.9 miles) long and had an annual WVC of 11.8 before any mitigation tools were put into place. In 2004, a wildlife underpass was created, and fencing was added. After the completion of the underpass, the annual WVC dropped to 2.5 per year. In a six-year test span the WVC rate dropped 78.8 percent. Due to the inclusion of wildlife mitigation techniques, Dead Man’s Flat’s went from having 19 WVC in 2002 to not having any in 2005.
In three years the section of Dead Man’s Flat’s went from having almost twenty wildlife involved vehicle collisions to not having a one. This is all due to the inclusion of wildlife corridors. The wildlife in that area where no longer crossing the highway to get to the other side. Instead, they received safe passage from the underpass. The study on the Trans-Canada Highway shows the success of using wildlife corridors to cross roadways. The two habitats on either side of the road were successfully connected and the wildlife use the pass to reach the other side. The usage of wildlife over and underpasses allow the animals to resume their normal breeding practices which increases the biodiversity in the area and increases the usability of the animals in research practices that help society.