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Scientists Evalute Connectivity of Wildlife Habitats in Northern Rockies

Photo of Wildlife habitats for such wildlife as elk were evaluated by scientists to better understand how their habitats connect across the Northern Rockies. (Thinkstock)Wildlife habitats for such wildlife as elk were evaluated by scientists to better understand how their habitats connect across the Northern Rockies. (Thinkstock)Snapshot : Forest Service scientists recently evaluated how and to what extent wildlife habitats are connected across a vast 44 million hectare geographical range in the Northern Rockies, providing a comprehensive evaluation of habitat connectivity to guide future restoration, conservation, and mitigation strategies.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Cushman, Samuel A.  
Research Location : Northern Rockies
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2013
Highlight ID : 553

Summary

Station scientists recently evaluated how and to what extent wildlife habitats are connected across a vast 108 million acre geographical range in the Northern Rockies. Their work looked at the: population connectivity of 144 different wildlife species in the northern Rocky Mountains; sufficiency of protected lands in providing habitat connectivity for these species; and utility of selected species to act as indicator, surrogate or umbrella species to provide connectivity for other species. The study evaluated the ability of the network of protected lands to provide protection for habitat connectivity for 105 hypothetical organisms. Protected lands in the region are primarily higher elevation forest and mountain habitats. The scientists found high variation in the vulnerability of species because of the extent of connected habitat, and the extent to which connected habitat overlapped protected lands. Species associated with high elevations have the vast majority of their connected habitat protected by Forest Service and National Park Service lands. In contrast, species associated with lower elevations were poorly protected by the existing network of protected lands. Findings indicate that low elevation and non-forest habitats may be at highest risk of human-induced habitat loss and fragmentation. Researchers believe that conservation efforts may be most effective if focused on expanding the network of lower elevation protected lands in such a way that maximizes connectivity across the landscape. These results provide a comprehensive evaluation of habitat connectivity to guide future restoration, conservation and mitigation strategies.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • University of Montana

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