Research Branch

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Landscape Ecology and Connectivity - Part 4 of 7

Author(s) or contact(s): R.J. Dawson
Source: Research Branch
Subject: Biodiversity
Series: Extension Note
Other details:  Published 1997. Hardcopy is available.


January 2000: Policy direction for biodiversity is now represented by the Landscape Unit Planning Guide. This Extension Note should be regarded as technical background only.

You accidentally unplug the freezer. Labour strife removes buses at rush hour. A violent storm knocks out the telephone lines. A highly disturbed ecosystem loses species to extinction. What do these events have in common? All are examples of systems in which an important connection has been severed. Just like electrical, transportation, or communication systems, the ecological systems composing landscapes require connections to maintain their functionality.
Historically, forest managers viewed the components that make up the landscape as separate, unrelated entities. The emerging discipline of landscape ecology now focuses on the landscape as an interrelated, interconnected whole. Landscape ecologists place a significant emphasis on the connections between landscape elements and their functional roles.

The Forest Practices Code acknowledges the importance of landscape ecology concepts by enabling district managers to designate planning areas called "landscape units," each with specific landscape unit objectives. The Biodiversity Guidebook (B.C. Ministry of Forests and B.C. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks 1995), a component of the Code, recommends procedures to maintain biodiversity at both landscape and stand levels. These procedures, which use principles of ecosystem management tempered by social considerations, recognize that an important way to meet the habitat needs of forest and range life is to ensure that various habitat types are still connected to each other. By sustaining landscape connections, forest- and range dwelling organisms can continue to spread out and move across and between landscapes.

This Extension Note is the fourth in a series designed to raise awareness of landscape ecology concepts, and to provide background for the ecologically-based forest management approach recommended in the Biodiversity Guidebook. The focus here is on landscape connectivity. We first define and describe connectivity. Then we summarize some of the ecological principles underlying connectivity, and review its role in maintaining the structural integrity of landscapes, the mechanisms that sustain it, and how it relates to biodiversity. We conclude by examining how the concepts of connectivity can be applied at the landscape level.

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Updated April 17, 2007