[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 20-Oct-2008
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Contact: Matt Holland
mdholland@ucdavis.edu
530-752-8177
University of California - Davis

Study: Wildlife need more complex travel plans

A new UC Davis study says that people trying to help nature by designing corridors for wildlife need to think more naturally.

"Human beings tend to think in terms of regular, symmetrical structures, but nature can be much more irregular," said UC Davis postdoctoral researcher Matthew Holland, the study's lead author. "We found that symmetrical systems of corridors may actually do less good for natural communities than designs with some randomness or asymmetry built in."

Corridors are physical connections between disconnected fragments of plant and animal habitat. A corridor can be as big as a swath of river and forest miles wide that links two national parks, or as small as a tunnel under an interstate highway.

Without such connections, animals cannot travel to food, water, mates and shelter. Plants cannot disperse their pollen and seeds to maintain healthy, genetically diverse populations.

Designing and implementing corridors (sometimes called corridor ecology or connectivity conservation) is a new subfield in environmental science. Holland's research is among the first to help land managers and community planners designing corridors to know what will work and what will not.

Holland's co-author is UC Davis theoretical ecologist Alan Hastings. Hastings is one of the world's mostly highly regarded experts in using mathematical models (sets of equations) to understand natural systems. His analyses have shed light on environmental issues as diverse as salt marsh grass invasions in San Francisco Bay; climate change and coral reefs; and marine reserves and fish populations. In 2006, Hastings received the Robert H. MacArthur Award, the highest honor given by the Ecological Society of America.

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The new study, titled "Strong effect of dispersal network structure on ecological dynamics," is scheduled to be published online on Sunday, Oct. 19, by the journal Nature. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.

About UC Davis

For 100 years, UC Davis has engaged in teaching, research and public service that matter to California and transform the world. Located close to the state capital, UC Davis has 31,000 students, an annual research budget that exceeds $500 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and more than 100 undergraduate majors in four colleges -- Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Letters and Science -- and advanced degrees from five professional schools -- Education, Law, Management, Medicine, and Veterinary Medicine.

Additional information:
Full text of study (DOI number: 10.1038/nature07395) <http://www.nature.com/nature/>
Matthew Holland's home page <http://two.ucdavis.edu/~holland/>
Alan Hastings' home page <http://two.ucdavis.edu/~me/amh.html>

Media contact(s):
Matthew Holland, Environmental Science and Policy, (530) 752-8177, mdholland@ucdavis.edu
Alan Hastings, Environmental Science and Policy, (530) 752-8116, amhastings@ucdavis.edu
Sylvia Wright, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-7704, swright@ucdavis.edu



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