MTRI is a non-profit co-operative with a mandate to promote sustainable use of natural resources and biodiversity conservation in the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve and beyond through research, education, and the operation of a field station.
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Species need the ability to move freely within their habitat to find food, water, shelter and enough space in order to survive. Human development has fragmented habitats, which impedes movement and alters ecological processes. Landscape connectivity refers to the extent to which the landscape helps or hinders species’ movement. Physical barriers including road development, dams, culverts, habitat change from forestry, habitat loss from urban expansion and agriculture all cause landscape fragmentation. As habitats become more fragmented, gaps within the landscape grow, leaving behind patches of residual habitat that are often isolated from each other. Smaller, more isolated patches become ecological islands, which can put species at an increased risk of disappearing from the region. Fragmentation has been linked as one of the principle threats to biodiversity due to a loss of landscape connectivity.
Landscape connectivity is comprised of two components: 1) structural connectivity and 2) functional connectivity. Structural connectivity looks at the spatial structural of the landscape and the degree to which the physical elements are linked. Functional connectivity looks at individual species and processes to determine how they are affected by the physical structure of the landscape.
Kejimkujik National Park and Historic Site and the Tobeatic Wilderness Area have been established to protect many federally and provincially listed species at risk and make up the core area of the Southwest Biosphere Reserve. There are other parks, wilderness areas and reserves scattered throughout the Biosphere reserve, however, to maintain the integrity of these protected areas it is essential that the human activities within the surrounding areas are responsibly managed.
One of the main research and monitoring objectives identified by the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute is to assess and ensure landscape connectivity. With approximately 70% of Nova Scotia’s forested areas privately owned and close to half comprising of small holdings, it is important to work closely with landowners in order achieve landscape connectivity with the core of the Biosphere Reserve.
In early 2010, MTRI began a project that will engage communities within the five counties of the Biosphere Reserve for species at risk and landscape connectivity. The collaborative approach with local landowners will help achieve protection of critical habitat for species at risk and flow within the forest landscape as well as maintaining habitat for critical ecological zones interacting with the core of the Biosphere reserve.
Check out MTRI's other research and monitoring projects related to landscape connectivity: