Nature Corridors Boost Failing Wildlife Populations

A buffer of plants on each side of an urban stream creates a corridor connecting habitat fragments, while penetrating the city with a source of purified air, welcome summer shade, and the soothing sounds of birdsong and water trickling over rocks.

Doug Tallamy is one of my heroes. He is a visionary thinker with the ability to tie together disparate bits of information — research results, personal observations, known scientific facts — into powerful calls for action that guide us toward living within nature, rather than continuing to segregate ourselves from it.

He is also a stimulating speaker who fills the brain with ideas and the heart with hope.

Here’s a recent video of Professor Tallamy discussing, among other things, how we can create nature corridors where it wouldn’t interfere with human use of land, to restore and protect diminishing populations of plants and animals trapped in isolated fragments of habitat such as parks, preserves, and residential yards.

Many species of animals and plants cannot adapt as quickly as needed to the changes in our landscapes (due to human development) and our climate, so they run the risk of extinction. Humans can boost those populations by creating or preserving corridors that allow those species to move through human-dominated territory in order to find food and mates.

Tallamy suggests several types of land that aren’t suitable for human use and could become nature corridors : mountain ridgetops, land alongside rivers & streams, highway shoulders, and cuts for power lines.

He isn’t the only one thinking about this strategy. The U.S. federal government recently unveiled a proposed monarch butterfly corridor to be created down the middle of the country along Interstate 35. It would, of course, benefit other pollinators as well.

One key to creating successful nature corridors will be addressing their inevitable intersections with roads. The extremely new field of “road ecology” explores ways in which animals can coexist with roads. For example, wildlife bridges (many of them still conceptual at this point) can help larger and more earth-bound animals move safely across roads. Or, in the case of toads, under them.


  1. We don’t really consider that our highway systems wreak havoc with wildlife. I wonder if the White House took in consideration the number of windshield splats when choosing a major interstate for a milkweed corridor. Makes a good sound bite though. ~Julie

    • Julie, I bet it is a case of choosing the best possible corridor in one of the only federally owned places large enough (and aligned correctly from North to South) so that, though not ideal, it may make a difference.

    • Our state hwy admin just spent $3 million to remove all the 50-year old non-native trees in the median and along the roadside of I-95 (about 8 miles) here just outside of Washington D.C. They replanted with natives. This is one of the most heavily driven highways in the country with huge numbers of trucks passing through all hours of the day. It’s hyper-loud and polluted. They got rid of a 50 -year old carbon sink to attract bees, butterflies and birds…three species you will never find there. Could you imagine having a picnic in the middle of I-95?

      I know the individuals who made this decision. They work in offices nowhere near the location, had some extra money, and a couple of private landscapers who got the work, and made this decision. I spoke with one of the state biologists when the tree removal began.

      He laughed.

      We need smart decision-making.

    • In California, bats and sparrows are protected. In our Central Valley (I-5), bats and sparrows are welcome to nest under bridges and over/underpasses. They cut down on the number of pests (thus cutting pesticide use), and lessen the “splat count”, as well as the bats giving us their guano–for free!

      If whichever dept–ag or transportation–chooses to plant monarch and pollinator dietary assistance along the CA Aqueduct–on the side away from I-5, that would be a good use of that strip. I’ve heard ideas about having solar arrays along that corridor, too.

      In the SF Bay Area, there are culverts and gullies for low-flowing creeks all over the place–not anything like the mostly-dry LA River channels. They offer banks for travel and sometimes food for various wildlife.

    • My husband just picked some milkweed from our obliging local highway to feed our 2 caterpillars (yes, I’m the proud mom to TWINS!). None in my yard, although planted for next year. I’m ready for an influx of monarchs!!!!! I can’t believe the yellow swallowtails I’ve seen in my yard this year, maybe it’s the cherry trees attracting them?

  2. In Sweden they create wildlife crossings for moose, deer and other large animals – under roads or railroads.

  3. Wildlife population in kenya has really been affected by this corridors. Poachers have taken advantage of that and now killing the rare species especially rhinos and elephants

  4. Even the most conservative of scientists have finally clued into the fact that we are well into a new great extinction. You say ‘many’ but really few to no animals can keep up with the current pace of change, including us of course. I love Doug Tallamy’s writings (and yours too) but seriously a wildlife corridor at this stage in the game is way too little way too late. I mean go ahead and do that. It is a nice thought but we really do need much more drastic and extreme solutions that overthrow the idea that business as usual can continue. I have been thinking a lot this week about Derrick Jensen’s challenge which goes something like … just what is your personal bar or line in the sand? Which death, disaster, extinction event. moonscape landscape will help you finally understand just how much of an emergency this is? Until he stated it so bluntly I realized that the bar has been a moveable goal post for me. Like, first it was the death of west coast old growth forests, then I heard about ocean acidification, saw glaciers fall into the sea, heard the north pole is probably going to be ice free for the first time this year … I’d feel some grief but continue to hope. That’s really not good enough.

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