A Simple Idea Could Help Wildlife Survive Climate Change

Global warming is chasing plants and animals, forcing them to head uphill or north to find suitable habitat. Scientists have considered migration corridors — restored, healthy natural areas that connect current habitats with likely landing spots — as a way to help plants and animals stay a step ahead of climate change.

New findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science quantify just how much of a benefit they would provide. The report shows that corridors up to 62 miles long would link up to 25 percent more habitat across the U.S. and on average help species adapt to an extra 4.9°F (2.7°C) of warming.

“It’s something land managers should be thinking about right now,” Jenny McGuire, an ecologist at Georgia Tech who led the new research, said. “Increasing connectivity between natural areas really does improve plants’ and animals’ ability to track their current climate.”

There are major hurdles standing between species and future greener pastures. Sprawling urban areas, major agricultural operations and other human developments have fragmented the landscape, forcing some species toward a dead end and their possible demise.

Corridors could help alleviate that. They aren’t literally corridors or paths for wildlife to stroll along, but rather stretches of land where the habitat — say, a river or well-managed commercial forest — is healthy enough to migrate as the world warms.

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