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Landscape corridors promote animal, plant dispersal

A study by a North Carolina State University zoologist and colleagues from the University of Florida and Allegheny College says that landscape corridors strips of land connecting separated areas of similar habitat are effective in promoting animal and plant seed movement to help sustain diversity and dispersal of native animals and plants.

In addition, says Dr. Nick Haddad, associate professor of zoology at NC State and a co-author of the paper describing the research, the study shows that easy-to-measure animal behaviors can serve as predictors for whether landscape corridors will be effective dispersal mechanisms for those specific animals and the plants they eat.

The research is published in the July 1 edition of Science.

Haddad and other scientists have published a number of studies on the efficacy of landscape corridors in promoting dispersal of animals. Haddad says corridors essentially reconnect habitats that were once connected before fragmentation brought on by urban or farm development, for example threatened native animals and plants. Lack of dispersal means animals and plants become vulnerable to being lost or developing negative genetic effects found in small populations, like those acquired through inbreeding, Haddad says.

The researchers tested their corridors at the Savannah River Site National Environmental Research Park, a federally protected area on the South Carolina-Georgia border that is mostly dominated by pine tree forests. At the researchers' request, the U.S. Forest Service arranged eight similar sites; each site included five areas cleared of trees. The central patch was connected to one other patch by a 150-meter-long, 25-meter-wide corridor, while three other patches were isolated from the central patch and themselves by forest.

In the study, the researchers found that Eastern Bluebirds, one of the major seed dispersers in South Carolina, were 31 percent more likely to be found in the center
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Contact: Dr. Nick Haddad
nick_haddad@ncsu.edu
919-515-4588
North Carolina State University
30-Jun-2005


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