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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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The Power of Corridors
27 March 2001 7:00 pm
When forests are divided by housing developments or logging, strips are sometimes left to allow animals to travel between remaining patches of habitat. But do such green corridors really work? Yes, researchers argue in the April issue of Conservation Biology. It's the first time genetic tools have been used to study the use of corridors.
A species faces new dangers when its population is fragmented. The smaller groups stand a greater chance of being wiped out by food shortages or other vagaries of nature. In addition, small populations can lose the genetic diversity that provides resilience to environmental change. To diffuse these threats, conservation biologists suggest creating or leaving corridors of the natural landscape to let animals move between the habitat patches. However, there are only scant data on whether animals do indeed travel along such strips, let alone whether they mate with inhabitants of other patches.
Now there's an answer. Researchers at Washington State University, Pullman, looked at populations of red-backed voles (Clethrionomys gapperi) in northeastern Washington. The voles prefer forests with closed canopies and can make do living in such sites in managed forests. Populations connected by corridors are more genetically similar than those separated by clear-cuts, the researchers found. That means the animals move through the corridors and breed with other populations, says study author Stephen Mech, now a conservation biologist at the University of Memphis in Tennessee. "Corridors are effective and can reduce, to some extent, the negative effects of fragmentation," Mech says. In managed forests, maintaining corridors is also "relatively cheap and easy," he adds.
"It's a solid study," says Nick Haddad, an ecologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, "and it's unique in that nobody's looked at the effects of corridors on gene flow."
The study also suggests that leaving forests untouched is an even better way to maintain gene flow. Populations linked only by corridors were not as closely related as those that could roam throughout continuous closed-canopy forests.