Establishing biological corridors towards habitat conservation

February 28, 2014
  • Establishing biological corridors towards habitat conservation

Constant changes to the landscape, in the form of housing and infrastructure development, sanitation, waste disposal, transportation networks, agriculture and natural resource extraction, are exponentially increasing to meet the demands of a growing global population. The environmental impacts of this increase threaten severe consequences for posterity, notably in terms of the loss of biodiversity. The survival of these ecosystems and forest habitats in particular, is central to human existence, affecting a myriad of natural processes including carbon absorption and the water cycle. The preservation of these ecosystems is important towards sustaining healthy agricultural production, thus having broader resonance for food security and human wellbeing.

Human activities inevitably fragment natural habitats and ecosystems, restricting the movement of species and isolating them within gradually shrinking spaces with limited resources for survival. The establishment of biological corridors has been identified as an effective means that could greatly enhance conservation-oriented aims.

Biological corridors, or linkages connecting habitats and landscapes fragmented by human activity, are geared to protect and improve the habitats of both flora and fauna and facilitate the movement of species. These narrow strips of forested land serve as a path for species to travel between dispersed habitats, providing safe passage for wildlife where migration patterns have been disrupted. These further promote the exchange of individuals between populations leading to improved genetic diversity and reducing inherent risks to survival.

Biological corridor connectivity can be achieved by encouraging the natural re-vegetation of roadsides and stream banks. These linkages offer food sources, cover and protection from predators, resting spots and habitat variety for wildlife. Managed forests can also be adapted into corridors, allowing for the cultivation of suitable, economically viable plants, herbs, bee flora and fruits. Within larger areas, ‘stepping stones’ or small, scattered habitat spaces can also be established to allow migratory birds, insects and other animals to feed and rest while travelling long distances across inhospitable landscapes. Even an individual tree can sometimes serve as an adequate stepping stone.

Tea estates in particular are often semi-natural plantations, and can be practically adjusted to better accommodate the wildlife. The Dilmah Bioregional Initiative centred on connectivity conservation aims to support the establishment of biological corridors and related landscape management within the estates from which Dilmah Tea is sourced. Given the unique ecosystems found in relation to the changing elevations of tea estates, this scheme seeks to foster patchy secondary forest areas towards securing habitats and enhancing the biodiversity and conservation value of Dilmah’s land holdings, and Sri Lanka at large.

Following a careful selection process, Dilmah’s Endana tea estate has been chosen to establish a pilot scale biological corridor. This estate which is bordered by the Delwala and Walankanda Protected Areas managed by the Forest Department will be connected through the estate as well as through the adjacent villages by way of specific species-oriented home gardening initiatives.