In the wild, migrating or moving to suitable habitats is a very important aspect. Without this, gene flow would be diminished, and the transfer or alleles/genes from one population to another would not happen. Multiple consequences could happen as a result, including inbreeding within a population, geographic isolation, and speciation, all of which have consequences of their own. As well, animals need to travel in order to find mates and/or den sites, expand home ranges, and to take advantage of seasonal changes in food and weather (Parks Canada, 2015). Roads and other developed areas can fragment habitat, eventually resulting in a decrease of gene flow and genetic diversity. However, wildlife corridors help prevent this; they provide a protected route to allow animals to move safely between areas of suitable habitat.
Banff National Park is especially focusing on corridors to help the animals in and around the area move around. Typically, they are narrow funnel-shaped tracts of land between developed areas (roads, neighbourhoods, etc.) and steep mountain slopes. Of course, these corridors need to be attractive to the animals in which would be using them; this includes size, terrain type, vegetation cover, topography, and absence of human presence (Richard, 2011).
In Banff, the large carnivores have the greatest need for movement, because if their requirements are met, then so are the requirements of smaller species via predator-prey relationships. Sawaya and his colleagues conducted a three-year project in Banff to evaluate the effectiveness of wildlife corridors on genetic diversity. They focused on gene flow in grizzly and black bears. By monitoring their movement and reproduction patterns, they found that the wildlife crossings did indeed allow gene flow to happen, preventing genetic isolation (Sawaya et al,2014).
A few more studies have been done in order to assess the effect of the wildlife corridors, and all of them have suggested that they provide ways of gene flow, preventing a lack of genetic diversity. Corridors also allow wildlife to travel in order to meet their needs and requirements. Overall, wildlife corridors, regardless of whether they are natural or man-made, are critical in environments where humans have made an impact. The Banff wildlife corridors are doing an astounding job in providing wildlife with opportunities to travel.
Parks Canada. [Internet]. 2015. Wildlife Corridors – A ‘Moving’ Story. Available from: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/banff/plan/faune-wildlife/corridors.aspx (accessed 18 Jan 2016)
Sawaya, M., Kalinowksi, S., Clevenger, A. 2014. Genetic connectivity for two bear species at wildlife corssing structures in Banff National Park. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 281(1780). pg 1-10. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.1705 http://rspb.royalocietypublishing.org/content/royprsb/281/1780/20131705.full.pdf
Richard, M. [Internet] 2011. 5 Things You Need to Know About Wildlife Corridors. Natural Sciences/Treehugger. Available from: http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/five-things-you-need-to-know-about-wildlife-corridors.html (accessed 18 Jan 2016)