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Landscape corridors promote plant diversity

Landscape corridors thin strips of habitat that connect isolated patches of habitat are lifelines for native plants that live in the connected patches and therefore are a useful tool for conserving biodiversity.

That's the result of the first replicated, large-scale study of plants and how they survive in both connected patches of habitat those utilizing landscape corridors and unconnected patches. Scientists at North Carolina State University and collaborators at other U.S. universities conducted the study.

Patches of habitat connected by corridors contained 20 percent more plant species than unconnected patches at the end of the five-year study, says Dr. Ellen Damschen, the study's lead author and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Damschen completed her Ph.D. in the lab of Dr. Nick Haddad, associate professor of zoology at NC State and a co-author of the paper describing the research.

The research appears in the Sept. 1 edition of the journal Science.

The loss and fragmentation of habitat is the largest threat to biodiversity globally, Damschen and Haddad say. In an effort to prevent species losses, conservation efforts have intuitively relied on corridors, which have become a dominant feature of conservation plans. However, there has been little scientific evidence showing that corridors do, in fact, preserve biodiversity.

To perform the research, the scientists collaborated with the U.S. Forest Service at the Savannah River Site National Environmental Research Park, a federally protected area on the South Carolina-Georgia border. Most of the Savannah River Site is covered with pine plantations. The U.S. Forest Service created eight identical sites, each with five openings, or patches, by clearing the pine forest. A 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 a
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Contact: Mick Kulikowski
mick_kulikowski@ncsu.edu
919-515-8387
North Carolina State University
31-Aug-2006


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